Robert Pattinson is taking the indie route this month with a starring role in Remember Me, a potentially sweet little love story set in New York City during the summer of 2001. In playing the film’s heartthrob, Tyler Hawkins, the dreamy Brit not only proves that he can play something other than a tortured vampire, but also — thoughtfully — is helping fans survive the endless drought between installments of the Twilight franchise.
Remember Me, which opens today, allows Pattinson some room to breathe that his role in Twilight inherently stifles (hint: no one dies when he gets naked!). Yet, while his role as Tyler is undeniably human, the wealthy, brooding writer isn’t so dissimilar from Twilight’s Edward Cullen. Like Edward, Tyler carries the weight of the world on his pale, alluring shoulders, thanks to a family tragedy that has strained relations with his father, Charles Hawkins (Pierce Brosnan). He also suffers from a barely-contained sense of rage, which, like the disrobing, is nice to see unleashed for a change. Unlike the impervious Cullen character, the dashing, scruffy Tyler is prone to bursts of violence that get him in big, mortal-style trouble behind bars.
No, the Hawkins family doesn’t have fun together like the Cullens do (besides, where can you play baseball in the city?), but Tyler does have a touching relationship with his kid sister, Caroline (Ruby Jerins), that may be the most compelling and believable dynamic in the film. While Remember Me is ostensibly about Tyler’s summer of love with Ally Craig (Emilie de Ravin), it really hinges on his relationship with his family, and himself. The film is billed as a love story in the last moments of American innocence: Before the country knew terrorism, before it knew Iraq; before it knew true loss. At the risk of overblowing intentions, then, Tyler is a stand-in for change, conscience and growing up, with all the unflattering growing pains along with it.
Both Tyler and Ally are bound by shared the experience of profound personal loss, but their romance still exists in a bubble where Daddy issues are paramount. Ally’s dad (Chris Cooper) is a stereotypical rough-around-the-edges, hard-drinking cop, whose own habit of throwing punches becomes a detriment to developing empathy for him. Tyler’s dad, meanwhile, is all good looks and arrogant ease washed down with fine wine and board-meeting power-trips. Yet, while Sgt. Craig never quite transcends his pro forma persona, the elder Mr. Hawkins actually evolves in the parenting department.
Remember Me falls short of coalescing into a compelling story with clear direction, but it does have its moments of tenderness, warmth and even a few laughs, thanks mostly to Tate Ellington, who plays Tyler’s neurotic and hilarious bestie, Aidan Hall. Aidan never gets the ladies, but he does tell good jokes. Tyler and Ally, meanwhile, are super-cute and (sometimes) super-hot, with lots of carnal action that Edward only wishes he could get. It’s tough not to fall for Pattinson’s signature fluffy hair and artsy malaise, but it is tough to believe that Tyler and Ally have anything beyond fun summer sexy time.
It’s a shame, then, on multiple levels that the film’s grand finale is in such poor taste. As misguided and unnecessary as the ending is, it’s even worse because the slow-motion nudges toward outrage feel insulting when the romantic gravity was never fully there. Pattinson and de Ravin are nice together, but they can only take the script so far. As any Twilight fan can attest, nice doesn’t cut it when it comes to tragic love and heartbreaking loss.