You might well go in to see Remember Me with low expectations, assuming it would be just another medium for showing off Robert Pattinson’s masculine beauty. It is almost impossible to view such a movie with an objective eye when its star has become a behemoth and everyone is eager to be critical of his next steps. However, Remember Me is not only a pleasant surprise, but one that manages to showcase just how well Pattinson manages to shake off the silly “vampire” persona that has become so closely associated with him of late, even to non-fans of the Twilight saga.

Pattinson’s new character, Tyler, is obviously meant to be taken seriously. It takes a few scenes to get used to this swearing, smoking, swaggering alter ego (many have accused Pattinson of channeling James Dean to varying degrees of success), but Pattinson makes it believable. His earnest acting does a lot to carry the film forward through thick and thin.

Remember Me opens with a murder scene that casts a pall of death over the film and hints that the viewer is about to enjoy a lot of heavy, complicated drama. That being said, most of the characters may be blatant stereotypes, but the plot manages to make up for it. The film sets itself down in Brooklyn, where college roommates Tyler and Aiden (Tate Ellington) get into a spot of trouble with a certain police sergeant (Chris Cooper, in a toned-down and vaguely awkward return to his American Beauty character).

Tyler introduces himself to the sergeant’s daughter, Ally (Emelie de Ravin), thereby initiating a romance that holds the story together through all sorts of depressing subplots. Especially disheartening is the plight of Tyler’s little sister, Caroline. Played rather deftly by Ruby Jerins, Caroline is a precocious elementary-school artist who undergoes merciless bullying by her peers and her own father, eliciting a couple of startling episodes in which Tyler shows off his violent side.

Take these little surprises and add in the fact that everything is framed and shot beautifully, and you have a film that grabs your attention and is easy on the eyes – usually enough for someone who isn’t too picky about the writing. There are some clever lines, but the first few scenes between Tyler and Ally are horribly clichéd. They are all the more uncomfortable because director Allen Coulter is self-conscious of this and tries vainly to correct it as he goes. In the most obvious example, Ally says to Tyler as he sprays her with a kitchen hose, “I’ve seen this scene a hundred times.”

But few films are entirely innocent of cliché, and Pattinson and de Ravin go on to complement each other quite well until the bitter end. During the last quarter of the action, I had a growing suspicion that the story was going to resolve itself neatly, as no good romance should. But during the last few moments, just when I was convinced that all the loose ends were tied off, it became apparent that Coulter never intended to take that particular easy way out. The ending may simply represent another easy finish, but it was definitely a shocker. I didn’t cry – but somebody in the theater was bawling.

Sadly, Remember Me is probably bound to be popular for the wrong reasons and underrated as the well-acted, emotionally engrossing story that it is. The DVD will be shelved alongside Twilight box sets and then forgotten, despite being entirely inappropriate for the tweens that make up most of Pattinson’s fan-base (a lot of little girls and their parents are in for a rude awakening). However, Remember Me does allow Pattinson to demonstrate his potential versatility just when he needs it most. Viewers may be all too familiar with Tyler, the artsy, brooding frequenter of coffee shops. But to see Pattinson fill this role is refreshing, and promises fewer vampires and more James Deans.

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Emilie de Ravin, Chris Cooper, Lena Olin, Pierce Brosnon
Director: Allen Coulter
Runtime: 113 Minutes
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Rating: PG-13
 

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