Remember Me review ?

Though it may come as something of a shock, the new teen romance vehicle for Twilight's undead idol, Robert Pattinson, turns out to be a profoundly moral film - a film in which ethical questions and moral dilemnas form a kind of central core to the film's narrative. As a result, watching the film, one gets the sense that very little is happening, and this is at least partly because the motor of the film's development is not really drama and tension in the traditional sense, but rather the posing and resolution of ethical problems. By way of warning then, I should say that this review will contain spoilers - if only because it's very hard to summarise the plot of a film in which nothing really happens until the very end (when something really happens), without revealing, or at the very least alluding to, what that something that happens at the end is.

The film opens, pointedly, in 1991, where we witness the murder of Ally Craig's mother by muggers at a New York subway station. Cut to ten years later, and we soon discover that Craig is not the only one with a reason to mourn, as Tyler Hawkins (Robert Pattinson) prepares to attend a memorial service to commemorate the death of his brother, six years previously. That night, falling drunkenly out of a bar, Hawkins and his friend Tate (Aiden Hall), get embroiled in a fight which ends the pair, thanks largely to Hawkins unnecessary rudeness to Sergeant Neil Craig, in jail. Upon being bailed by Hawkins' rich businessman father (Pierce Brosnan, marrying the voice of Al Pacino with the posture of Michael Portillo), Tate persuades Hawkins to seduce Craig's daughter, Ally (Emilie de Ravin), by way of revenge upon her father.

The 2001 setting, however, is not just a device to make sure we get to see R Patts loking cool smoking in bars. One of the film's very first scenes is set in Ally and Tyler's global politics class, in which the teacher mentions the current heightened terror alert, and in the very first scene, of the mother's mugging, the twin towers of the World Trade Centre are visible in the background. The film then progresses through the year, from spring to summer to autumn, following the blossoming romance between Ally and Tyler, until a chalk date on a blackboard tells us we are in September, and a shot of Hawkins in his father's office pulls back to reveal the location of said office - on the 86th floor of the World Trade Centre.

During that early scene in the Global Politics class, the professor asks the class what is the difference between morals and ethics, to which Ally replies that ethics concerns one's personal integrity whereas morality refers to one's responsibility to the norms and codes of the community - and that she thinks the first is more important than the second. All the way through the film, we follow the relatively iconoclastic young lovers, Ally and Tyler, who's free-spiritedness is always being contrasted with the uprightness of their respective fathers. At first the two dads seem to conform to the twin teen movie cliches of girl's over-protective father who wishes to keep his daughter locked up and out of trouble, and the boy's high powered businessman father who neglects the needs of his family and doesn't understand the lifestyle of his son. As the film progresses, however, this sense of identification with the youth against the older generation is complicated. We see the love and fear that Sgt. Craig has for his daughter, and also get a sense of his trusted and respected position in the community as a police sergeant, whereas Charles Hawkins is revealed to be a self-made man who worked his way up to the top in order to support his family. At the end of the film, after Tyler's death on September 11th, we see his parents reunited, and seemingly all family feuds, on both sides, smoothed over.

In a sense, the film is drawing a distinction between two kinds of trauma, and two possible responses to trauma. To the first, personal trauma - the deaths of the mother and the brother - the normal response is shown to be a solipsistic cutting-off into an ethics of the self, and centred around personal integrity. Whereas, to the second, the national, pubic trauma of the 9/11 tragedy, the only appropriate response is shown to be a setting aside of one's personal desires, in order to reintegrate with the moral norms of the community and share in the process of collective mourning.

In effect, the film's ideology is identical to the calls of right wing commentators, following major humanitarian tragedies, such as those in New Orleans or, more recently, Haiti, that now is not the time for analysis and "political point scoring", now is not the time for integrity and ethical uprightness, but merely to sympathise blindly with the injured party and engage in the proper channels of collective mourning (buy the charity single, express one's heartfelt sorrow on social networking sites, etc.). It has been through precisely this ethical and ideological sleight of hand, that throughout the last decade, national and international traumas have been used as a pretext for the curtailing of individual liberties and the rolling back of advances in the fight against sexism, racism, and so forth. The 'Me' of the title who must be remembered, then, is not poor R Patts, blown to smithereens by the crashing jumbo jet, but the Big Other, the anonymous figure of judgement and social authority before whom one's own concerns and desires must be relinquished. Less, "Remember Me" more "Remember: Obey!"

Official Site
Remember Me at IMDb
Read Robert Barry's report of the Remember Me press conference

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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