Remember Ruby Jerins.
It is 11-year-old Ruby Jerins who fairly well steals the film Remember Me from such heavyweights as Oscar winner Chris Cooper, Oscar and Emmy nominee Lena Olin and Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson in her portrayal as Caroline, the younger sister of Pattinson's Tyler, a terminally sad young man whose entire family is drowning in grief following the suicide of Tyler's older brother.
While Remember Me, directed by Allen Coulter (Hollywoodland) and written by first-time screenwriter Will Fetters, is billed as a romantic drama, the romance in the film between Tyler and the equally traumatized Ally (Emilie de Ravin) isn't particularly dramatic unless you consider the cumulative weight of their life stories.
Remember Me kicks off rather ominously 10 years earlier in a pre-9/11 New York City with a mother and her 11-year-old daughter playfully enjoying one another's company on a surprisingly empty subway platform with the threatening presence of a couple obvious thugs in the background. Within a few moments, the mother is murdered in front of her daughter.
Flash forward 10 years and the girl, Ally, is living with her still grieving and heavily drinking cop father (Chris Cooper) while studying social work at a local college.
Tyler is disheveled, drunken, sullen, morbid, Edward Cullen and completely detached from his dysfunctional family, which includes the aforementioned Caroline, their high-powered lawyer father (Pierce Brosnan) and their re-married mother (Lena Olin). He lives with a loser friend, Aidan (Tate Ellington) and audits classes in a college while not being particularly motivated to do anything.
Ally, on the other hand, is a "good girl" who attends class, lives peacefully with her father, NEVER rides the subway and wants to make a difference in the world. Her relationship with her father is, in a different way, nearly as detached.
A not so ironic encounter between Tyler and Ally's father during a drunken bar brawl leads to Tyler's beating and arrest by the increasingly volatile cop and Aidan, once he spies dad dropping off Ally at their college (How ironic!) convinces Tyler to seduce the young woman as revenge.
Of course, they share their unexpectedly similar traumas and, of course, they fall in love.
It's just unfortunate that none of the romance is particularly convincing and, for the most part, Robert Pattinson is merely playing Robert Pattinson playing Edward Cullen playing Robert Pattinson without any, or at least not many, vampiric tendencies to be found.
Is Pattinson's performance a bad one? Not at all. It's simply not a stretch and, in particular, seems an unusual choice for the young actor who has verbalized wanting to break away from the Twilight stereotype.
Truthfully, Pattinson does give glimpses of solid acting here, especially in his tender and relaxed scenes with Jerins as Caroline. It is in these scenes, which are unfortunately far too few, that Pattinson is fully alive and gives an indication of being able to break out of his moody and mopey persona and actually become a fully realized human being onscreen. Unfortunately, this same presence doesn't happen in his scenes with Ally as the romance between the two feels more methodical than magical. Neither performer is particularly weak, they just aren't convincing either.
Surprisingly, it is Pierce Brosnan who shines the most alongside Jerins. Brosnan's Charles Hawkins is a layered man, painted not so broadly as a man who immerses himself in his professional world as a way of dealing with pain and grief that consumes him. He is simultaneously repulsive, especially in his treatment of Caroline, and yet strangely sympathetic in the way Brosnan subtly reminds us of his true humanity.
Oscar winner Chris Cooper, on the other hand, is left essentially with playing a man whose grief is all consuming and whose only ways of coping are drinking and abusing his power as a cop. Whereas Brosnan's dysfunction is layered, Cooper's is bold and abrasive and feels particularly out of balance with the overall somber tone of the film. As Tyler's mother, Lena Olin is mostly an afterthought whose talent is largely wasted.
The original score by Marcelo Zarvos has, much like the film, an uneven tone as it vacillates between emphasizing the film's importance and yet occasionally being remarkably and wonderfully understated. Jonathan Freeman's cinematography nicely captures the film's urban grittiness that permeates both the city streets and the inner lives of our characters.
Watching Robert Pattinson break out of his Twilight mold by appearing in Remember Me feels about as logical as watching Zac Efron begin his post-High School Musical life in 17 Again. In other words, it doesn't make sense. Yet, it's easy to understand why the entire cast signed on the film with its dramatic storylines, interesting characters and important themes. Pattinson, who also serves as an executive producer for the film, takes baby steps towards breaking out as an actor but here's hoping his next role involves a much more pronounced stretch of the young actor's range.
It seems unlikely, given the film's uneven and serious tone, that Remember Me will provide any box-office evidence of Pattinson's ability to carry a film. It also features a rather unnecessary and manipulative twist that is off-putting at best. Instead, Pattinson's loyal fans are much more likely to wait until the film shows up on home video.
Remember Me? Eh, not so much.
Remember Ruby Jerins.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic