NYU students Ally Craig (Emilie de Ravin) and Tyler Hawkins (Robert Pattinson) have a lot in common: a shared philosophy class, overbearing fathers, dead relatives. Ally’s mother was murdered in front of her at a subway stop (tensely, then terrifyingly dramatized in the film’s opening minutes), and Tyler’s big brother killed himself six years prior.
They’ve also both been bullied by her cop dad (Chris Cooper), but Ally doesn’t know yet about this connection. When Tyler first introduces himself in the student union, it’s with the vague intention of exacting some revenge on Sgt. Craig – tit for tat, à la “you bash my face in, I boff your daughter” – but that plan falls to the wayside when Tyler and Ally fall fast in love.
Playing New York born-and-breds, Pattinson and the appealingly brusque de Ravin are working with non-native American accents (he’s British, she’s Australian), which lends their line readings unique, not entirely intuitive cadences and inflections.
Pattinson already proved in the Twilight franchise he could brood like a baby Brando or Dean, but here, working with far superior material (by first-time screenwriter Will Fetters), he gets to sink his teeth into something more than posturing.
His Tyler is twitchy, trigger-tempered, and believably (read: sulkily) 21, which might have been insufferable without his keen comic delivery of the frequently funny script (Rachel Getting Married screenwriter Jenny Lumet reportedly pinch-hit). Still, had Remember Me’s ambitions stalled out with only Tyler and Ally’s relationship, it would have been merely standard, if thoughtfully executed, first-love stuff.
But Fetters and Coulter, a longtime TV director whose only other feature credit is the well-received period piece Hollywoodland, widen the film’s scope to include the family dramas that dominate Ally and Tyler’s individual lives and bring them closer together as a couple.
There is, quite simply, a rather refreshing ordinariness to Remember Me in the unflashy, knuckle-down attention it gives to character development, and to the building of plausible and involving family and friend dynamics. That ordinariness also informs the plot – Tyler and Ally struggle in their own ways to adopt a sanguine attitude about where the day takes you – and the climax movingly dovetails with the film’s ongoing explorations into the everyday and the extreme.
Too bad, then, about the denouement.
There is an obvious, organic, and affecting place for the film to stop, but the filmmakers instead tack on additional voiceover and montage, in a too literal evocation of the title.