“Remember Me”: Stirring Up Controversy And Emotions

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Yesterday I submitted an essay to Moviefone about the controversial ending to the new film Remember Me, directed by Allen Coulter, written by Will Fetters and starring Robert Pattinson (Twilight) and Emilie de Ravin (Lost). A topical Moviefone story can often pull in one or two dozen comments. Some have topped 100. This one reached 300 within 12 hours of being posted. At one point last night, I was literally receiving one comment per minute, and during one hour alone, the post received 78,000 views, easily making it the post of the night and landing it a top spot on AOL’s main page.

The point of contention of the film is the ending, which takes place on September 11, 2001. (You can read about the story and how it ends there by clicking on the above link.) When the troubled main character Tyler (played by Pattinson, who also co-executive produced the movie) seems to be turning his life around — uniting his dysfunctional family and in the midst of repairing a deep rift with his girlfriend Ally (de Ravin) — he perishes in one of the Twin Towers, his diary landing amid the debris. Many critics and some audience members have found the use of the World Trade Center attacks to be offensive and exploitative, while many people (especially many of those who posted comments to my story) found the ending moving as the central themes of the films are coping with grief, making amends with those close to you, moving forward with life and learning to embrace the simple joys and to live in the moment.

And after 9/11, weren’t many of us thinking deeply about those things?

It is heartening to see so many people pouring out their thoughts about this sincere film, which has been savaged by critics, many of whom find the film’s denouement to be in bad taste. Obviously 9/11 was a traumatizing and polarizing event, and the effects of that day have been felt by Americans on different levels — political, social and personal. I feel the critical backlash to the film is undeserved, and many filmgoers agree. But the debate that my essay sparked also indicates how the politicization of this tragic event — which has been used for personal gain by unscrupulous politicians since that day — has flared up people’s emotions and tied them in to other issues.

Robert Pattinson and Emilie de Ravin in a happier moment during the melancholic "Remember Me". (Image courtesy of Summit Entertainment.)

Which is why Remember Me has struck such a chord. This cinematic tale is conceivably what one of the many personal portraits of the victims might have been like. We often hear about how many people died that day, how evil the attacks were and how it was a clarion call to fight terrorism. But honestly, we never hear enough about intimate stories like this one. 9/11 has become so politicized by Washington and the media that it is nice to see a story that uses the event to strike a personal chord rather than make any sort of political statement. Because no matter what, loss is loss, regardless of how it happens or why.

I feel that to deem references about 9/11 to be taboo for artistic purposes is akin to acting like it did not happen, even if that is not the intended reason. At the very least, it is being in a state of denial and ties in with what the film is trying to teach us: that we need to move forward and not be forever haunted and trapped by our individual pasts, no matter how painful they are. At the same time, we need to acknowledge and remember those who matter or who have mattered to us. Granted, the feelings of someone who outran the massive dust cloud in lower Manhattan or who lost someone in the Twin Towers tragedy will be very different than the rest of us, so it is understandable that they might more uncomfortable with this subject matter. But even some of those in that smaller group who posted comments to my story felt moved by what they saw in Remember Me. Perhaps it is because ultimately we need to live in hope and not despair, even when confronted with something horrible. It takes time to heal from a traumatic event — and to be honest, knowing people who have been through difficult situations in their life, I know that never fully happens — and these wounds are clearly still fresh. But often in order to move forward from something painful, we need to take a look back at where we’ve been, and that is never easy, no matter how much time has passed or how ready we may or may not be.

I think the filmmakers understood this and handled the subject matter respectfully.

40 Responses

  1. Roz Wolf

    How can 911 not be relevant? The same horrible people are in our world today. The same kind of non-human who could be allowed to take over a religion, mostly from Saudi Arabia, are the same ones who have no conscious reason to stop themselves from destroying innocent lives. The awakening of American minds to this unbelievable threat is how the memory of 911 keeps us awake. We all have to live with the fact that these anti-humans still have hate in their hearts and minds. American’s find comfort in others who appreciate our way of life, which is by and large very human, very warm, very giving and filled with love. We cannot understand why these “human haters” can’t just preach live and let live.

    Reply
  2. robpattdul

    Thanks for your comments, I think RM is a film with an extraordinary message of life.

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  3. Lisa

    Thanks for this article. I was a little shocked at the negative reaction the critics had. Though most acknowledged the acting as being good, so many made the (misunderstood) ending the focus of the review. It was sensitively handled and wasn’t at all a “twist” like so many called it. I wish there was a way to encourage more people to see this movie because it deserves an audience.

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  4. Jean

    “I think the filmmakers understood this and handled the subject matter respectfully”

    Thank you!! Finally someone put into words what I felt when I watched it. I saw Remember Me on Friday and I am still thinking about it. It was a beautiful film.

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  5. lea

    I completely disagree with this article. My problem with remember me isn’t that it used 9/11. It’s how it’s used.

    9/11 is used to make women cry and think that this relationship was deep. This is just a cliche story where they trow a catastrophe in the mist to make people cry.

    I love movies when they are well done and when their subject is well writen. I hate to be manipulated. This one of the reason i never watch news or tv commercial. This movie used 9/11 as a shock value. It’s uncool.

    You have movie out there about 9/11 that weren’t controversial because the plot didn’t used the event as a twist.

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  6. renate

    A great Movie which will stick with you for days to come. I really felt the same pain I expirienced on THAT horrible morning, driving my Kids to school and rushing back home to turn on the TV. What do we really know about the Tragedy so many People where involved with, the people in the tower ,how they felt…us!!! who are so very helpless. LETS NOT FORGET….this is why this Movie is a Treasure. Exellent Acting !!!!!!!!!!!

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  7. P.E.

    Thanks for the essay and post. As someone who waited and waited to hear if my loved ones survived the Pentagon attack (yes) I loved this film. I was not offended it was a 9/11 film. It was tastefully yet effectively done. I thought it embodied all the long-term feelings of dealing with unexpected loss, acceptance, and trying to find a good life or even good moments as we grow. It was beautiful.

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  8. mendie

    First of all let me just congratulate you on doing a write up that has not only been read by thousands of people but has also sparked so much discussion. Second of all I had no intention of seeing this movie. Not one part of me had any interest in watching two mooney people stare poetically at each other while twihard tweens scream irritatingly around me. But after reading your post and discovering that this movie is about more than star crossed lovers and actually has a point about love, life, and loss I am contemplating a change of heart. Speaking as one of the Americans that had a friend who worked in World Trade Center II (he wasn’t there that day called out sick) I remember first hand what it was like that day watching and waiting for news of any type of his fate. For me that day wasn’t about the politics, it was about a dear friend and the possibilty that I and his family had lost him. Great post Bryan, the Shorty is your’s next for sure.

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  9. Mochachino

    I agree. The media has associated a lot of fear and anger with 9/11. To me, that was offensive manipulation. In contrast, RM reminds me of the connections people can feel with total strangers because of their shared sense of loss. People were hugging strangers that day and I have heard of at least two accounts where they were in the theatre after RM as well. RM puts a human face on the event and makes the losses the Hawkins family felt all of ours. Although this movie was about so much more than 9/11, I can’t think of a more fitting memorial.

    Not everyone has suffered tragedy in their family. But some have, and anyone could. A lot of people live as if they won’t face such a tragedy, and may live differently if reminded that they could. I understand and respect that this is a difficult movie for some to see, and their reactions or choice not to see it. I also understand that some people only want to forget their problems when they go to the movies. But I am glad RM was made for the rest of us, and for the reflection and debate it has inspired. You can’t say the same for many movies made nowadays.

    The immediate reaction of many critics to this movie was probably coloured by the fact that RM wasn’t the film they were expecting to see and the fact that unfortunately (and to the detriment of the film industry IMO) it is more difficult to make movies today that aren’t simply escapist entertainment. Your review seems to be more in line with reactions of moviegoers than those of many other critics.

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  10. JenniferB

    Thank you for your review of Remember Me. I think those critics who gave the film poor reviews because of 911 being incorprated in it, just didn’t understand the films meaning/message to begin with. The movie should make you think about life!!! Please just go it see it, I don’t think you will regret it. The film will stay with you.

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  11. mayela walker

    Thank you for the review. I saw the movie yesterday, and liked very much. I thought the acting was excellent and did not get offended by the 911 ending. My brother in law was in one of the towers during the attacks, he survived, witnessed the second plane hit the second tower, what he described at that time could be exactly what Tyler saw in that moment. Very good film.

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  12. Michelle B

    Just saw the film a 2nd time. Yeah, I’m a huge Rob Pattinson fan, but the film has stuck in my head since I saw it last Friday with my daughter who has breast cancer. There are so many levels to it, and that what makes it a compelling must-see. I think Rob was totally correct: Without the Twilight madness, this is a small film that would not have been made. What a pity if it had not been done! ALL the actors did wonderful jobs portraying their characters. I too expected a lot of screams and such when you saw Rob the first time. But after the brutal opening shots, you realized you wouldn’t be smiling through this movie. Robert became Tyler, and I totally forgot whatever other roles he has done. Yeah, he looked like Edward at times, but he IS a human being. If you don’t cover up his face with grotesque makeup, he will probably show the same expressions in all films. All actors do! Bravo to all involved. Hope more people go see it. It deserves to be shared with many others. May we never forget that individuals died that day; a nation should never forget.

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  13. Val

    Thank you for this review. i have seen this powerful movie and loved it! I thought it was tastefully done and don’t understand the negative reviews. Yes, I am a Pattinson fan and that is why I initially saw it but this movie has stayed with me and my family. WE are going to see it again. Pattinson was very good in this movie and the story wonderful. Two thumbs up! Go see this movie.

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  14. menn

    I agree with everything you say. It does´t deserve to be handled like that for the ending from the critics, because they obviously didn´t get it. This is one of the best movies out there. Even if it didn´t have ended like that, it still would be one of the most real and best movies I have seen. ´Nothing is going to stop me from seeing this in the cinemas over and over again. Plus, the acting is spot on, from everybody!

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  15. Jane

    I am 50 years old and the fall of the twin towers was the worst thing in my life. This movie, Remember Me is one of the best movies that I have seen for people to remember love and lost. The acting was very real and the storyline was very true. I came out of that theater with a heart full of love and pain and couldn’t wait to get back to my family and tell them how much they mean to me. I cry everytime I think of the movie and plan on seeing it again and buying the DVD when it is released. Best movie to come along in a long time. It was real

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  16. Christina

    This film was absolutely marvelous. Robert Pattinson is extrememly talented and I think the film was very well done. I think telling the story of 911 from a different perspective as this film does, only makes us remember to tell the ones we love how much we love them more often. This movie was amazing in everyway, and anyone who say’s differently is just stupid.

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  17. Valerie

    The film was fantastic! Robert Pattinson is very talented and was very good in the film. The film was tastefully done and it is still with me – I keep thinking about it. We will probably see it again tomorrow. Very, very good movie with a message about life.

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  18. Marina

    Thank you for this remarkable, objective review and well-thought analysis. I can’t tell you how glad I am to find at last someone who shows the honesty, distance and insight lacking in so many reviewers who savaged the movie. It is one of the most beautiful, courageous and real movies I’ve seen in a long time – and I’m a frequent movie-goer. RM has a haunting quality and stays with you long after. Its greatest merit in my opinion is that it makes you think more deeply about what really matters most in our lives. RM also offers an intimate, human and individual approach to a collective tragedy and by doing so, makes us feel, remember, and rethink our priorities, and, ultimately, reconsider who we are deep down and how we live our lives.

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  19. Shirlee

    I disagree with Lea that the 9/11 ending was a “shocker” used to make women cry – I didn’t cry at all, I took in the movie as a whole. I was more “shocked” by the birthday party and what the little bitc*** did to his sister, that is what made me cry. I think that if someone other than Robert Pattinson (perhaps Johnny Depp or Leo DiCaprio) was the leading man, there wouldn’t be these comments and the movie would be received much better.

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  20. BBM

    I appreciate your article and agree totally with everything you mentioned.

    My response to “LEA” is this. I think quite a few American’s have forgotten about 9/11 and have also forgotten these people were someone’s boyfriend, husband,fiance’ and shame on you for even going in the direction you did regarding this part of the movie. “It was added only to give ‘girls’ an excuse to cry?” I am possitive your girlfriend, wife or fiance’ would have cried had it been you in one of those towers!

    I thought the message of this movie was incredible. What these families go through in this movie is not only tragic, but also inspiring. It gives hope.

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  21. simoneaw

    I like the fact that this film was very human. We see the characters doing normal stuff that we typically do, there’s no particular stand-out scene that sets the story in motion like most stories. We go through life, face some arguments and problems, and we don’t necessarily get some big epiphany out of it in that moment. Yet at the end of it, I realized that every scene that was seemly insignificant is important. This film touched on so many things categorizing it in one genre just doesn’t cover it.
    Even though some people feel that the ending was exploitation, don’t all movies on wars, abuse, tragic events exploit that? Maybe its because they feel that the ending was just added to squeeze some tears out of the audience, but I didn’t feel that way. It could be the fact that I’m Singaporean, but for me it felt right for the story to end this way. Life is unpredictable, and that was an event no one expected. In truth, if Tyler ended up murdered or got into a car accident, the impact of the story wouldn’t be told in its full extent because even though we don’t expect bad things to happen in our lives, accidents are expected and very probable. It was like what Tyler thought of Ally’s dessert-first theory, “What are the odds?”. Like an asteroid hitting earth. And truth is, no one can guarantee what would happen in the next moment, no matter how small the possibility is.
    But even if you feel angry about the ending, at least don’t forget the beauty of pain depicted in this film. After Ally’s mom and Michael’s deaths, they were all somehow crippled by the pain. But with Tyler’s death, the pain helped them learn to embrace life in its entity. Life isn’t perfect. We can only go through it hoping that we have done at least one thing right by the ones we love, minimize the damages we inflict on others and nurse the wounds that people give us, hoping it will heal someday.

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  22. McMilliss

    How wonderful that the internet is buzzing with this movie! It is well deserved, as it is a one-of-a-kind.

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  23. Meghan

    I agree whole heartedly- people dont want to face reality and instead bash the film for making them feel a sense of loss. The film gave a touching tribute to the extremity and loss that september 11 revealed. Props to you for realizing this.

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  24. sharon

    I cannot believe that critics can have that much power to influence people as to whether they do or do not see a movie. Look at all the positive reviews from ordinary people who have actually been to see the movie and judge a film from that. It is more power to the people and less to those with ulterior motives – I don’t want to be told what to see and what not to see – I will judge for myself. This film has in no way broadcasted the 9/11 tragedy to push it forward – they have tastefully and delicately avoided any mention this event because the film is not about that, it is about loss and making sure we all realise what is important in our life – family. Please give this film a chance –

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  25. Marina

    I am amazed that so many critics savaged this movie when so many viewers have loved it. How can there be such a discrepancy? Are the critics and the viewers living in totally different worlds? Now, it is true that irreversible damage has been done and that this beautiful little gem of a movie will probably never make the box-office numbers it initially deserved, but I am truly happy to see that the positive buzz/WOM continues on many Web sites.

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  26. oleander

    Thank you for having the balls to give an objective and honest review of this incredible movie. I went because I was intrigued, and I left completely enamoured with this wonderful, and heartbreaking film.

    It wasn’t until the second viewing that it fully hit me. I think I was in shock the first time because there were several things that seemed to come out of nowhere; the incident with Caroline’s hair, and the ending.

    I don’t think they used 9/11 as a guaranteed tear-jerker moment, and I think they handled it tastefully. There were no gratuitous airplane shots, or explosions; it focuses on the human reactions to such an inhuman event.

    It takes a special movie to stick so closely to me for this long. I find myself thinking back to it quite often, and have been recommending it to everyone.

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  27. jessegirl

    This film does something no other has done in a very long time: it resonates, and the viewing public isn’t used to it. It requires multiple viewings. It sneaks into a lot of people hours later because it takes a long time to process, and then it’s a tidal wave. So many people have been affected this way. They say things like: ‘I can’t stop thinking about it.’

    People are blogging up a storm and the comments in spoiler threads are amazing. The film has tapped into a well of thought and feeling so deep, it is stunning in its power. People are moved, touched by the film. They care. That’s something most movies can’t do these days.
    People are telling stories about their lives, their loves and losses and pains, as a result of watching Remember Me. They aren’t just talking about the ending. It is of a piece and the power of the film comes from its main theme, which Heather mentions. It is about loss, grief and healing.

    Tyler, the central character, is played with power and subtlety by Robert Pattinson. The ending is so huge not just because it brings 9/11 into it, but because by that time we are emotionally invested in Tyler. And we wouldn’t be if Robert hadn’t done such a great job. If we don’t care about Tyler and his death, everything else is irrelevant. So when Tyler stands at that window and realization came to me of what doom was coming to him, the film started haunting me. The musical score was riveting. I was paralyzed, unable to breathe, too hysterical to cry.

    Our sorrow is our homage, our respect, our expression of how much we have lost.
    We must not forget. We must not forget the Holocaust. We must not forget 9/11. We must not forget that one particular life that was taken from us. We must not forget that one life.

    It speaks to the enormous power of this film that it could unleash such a deep and primal well of feelings in so many of us. It is a remarkable result of a remarkable movie.
    I see the film’s treatment of the event as homage, tastefully and eloquently done.

    So when Tyler looks out that window and the camera zooms out so that there will be no mistake as to his fate, all I can think is that I want him back. It’s f–king heartbreaking.

    There is so much more. These filmmakers are to be applauded. Ignorant and arrogant reviewers, who have eyes but cannot see, ears but cannot hear, say rotten tomatoes. I say Oscars. So there.

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  28. jessegirl

    Sorry, a little more to say, been thinking about this movie at lot:
    Tyler is the linchpin, the glue, and without him the center will not hold. That’s why we know Robert’s portrayal worked. We love the guy by the end and it breaks our hearts, as if it were our own son or lover who died that day, when we know what’s coming.

    We lost Tyler, screaming inside, which is why we sat, stunned. The loss ripped our being. Later we started thinking about other losses in our lives. Remembering those others. Honouring them. Tyler is the key, the touchstone to all that. ‘Remember me’, all dying people plead. ‘I was alive. I loved you.’ Remember, remember.

    Someone talked about the vitriolic words the bad reviewers used–because, face it, they are eaten up with envy for Robert–but there are many better words for this film.

    Use these words: haunting, resonant, brilliant, powerful, real, moving, profound, tasteful, healing, sensitive, substantive, significant, thought-provoking, poignant, gut-wrenching, up-lifting. That’s just the beginning of a list.

    This film is a tour de force. From the acting, directing, screenplay, score, cinematography, concept. It quietly takes your breath away.

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  29. Susan Adkins

    I’ve thought about this debate….there are 5 ways to lose a loved one; natural causes, terminal illness, suicide, murder and tragic accident. Remember Me deals with the last three, each one denies us closure…resolution…leaving us with no chance to say what we need to…to make our feelings clear…to live each day to it’s fullest. That’s what this movie is about.

    Not everyone has had someone die tragically in a car accident or some other sudden event yet nearly every person in the world can relate to the grief they felt on 9/11…regardless of nationality…with New York being at the epicenter. The loss that was felt around the world linked us all and, on some level, still does. It was an event that touched humanity.

    To me, it makes sense to use this pivotal event not only because it emotes sympathy but also empathy as we understand the deep feelings of loss and sadness felt by the characters left behind. To say it’s irrelevant or manipulative comes from someone who doesn’t get it…

    This movie isn’t a love story…it’s a life story…..

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  30. Kathy

    Thank you for your review. I’ve seen the film four times and will certainly buy the DVD. I’ve recommended it to everybody I know, and my friends and relatives who have seen it also love the movie and don’t find it offensive or exploitative at all. We see it as a tribute to those killed on that day, as well as to their survivors. Remember Me touched me and moved me in a way no other film has done for a long time. For me, it put a personal face on the 9/11 tragedy. Even though it’s fiction, the characters and their stories are so realistic, I think everyone can relate on some level. I’m grateful to the writer, the director, and Rob as producer for following their instincts and getting this film made. I’ll never forget it.

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  31. slim

    I have seen the movie so far 4 times. Each time I try to bring someone to expose them to this “must see” hoping they will spread the word. I need for my children to see this. What this movie brings to the surface is important to us all. I am a mom and a grandmother, when I lost “Tyler” it felt real as if he was my own. And their are so many eloquent comments and reviews on this movie – far more deep and thought provoking than the critics. We have a movement here that I hope will ‘resonate’ for a long time. This is a movie that the hearts of everyone involved shows through. I am so glad it got produced. On so many levels this film is relevant to our lives and can inspire those who as we say “get it”. Seems that not only did 9/11 bring Americans (of all nationalities)together but so has this film with its brilliant performances by all and the truly real portrayal of these lives that we all became a part of. Overall – I am aborbed by this, into this world of Tyler’s and took the journey with them all. Human beings can actually relate if done right. Thanks to all who are participating in the discussions and creating dialogue and inspiring thoughts – it is refreshing.

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  32. Terri

    Nice review! I saw the movie several times with different family and friends and each one enjoyed it immensely. I don’t what movie the critics saw, but it was not the same one I saw. Why do they only focus on the ending. To me, that was not what the story was about at all. I thought the ending was perfect and handled very repectfully. Everyone involved with this movie should be proud. Those that actually “get” the movie, enjoy it. I think most critics were not going to like this movie from the very beginning just because it is Rob’s first post-Twilight movie and through no fault of his own, he has become a huge “heartthrob” to many ages and was never going to get a break from the critics anyway. I think he will continue to be scrutinized more than other actors for this reason. Personally, I thought all the cast did a fantastic job.

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  33. Jane

    Remembr Me is one of the best movies that I have seen in a long time. As soon as I saw it I wanted to go back and see it again. The critics have given it a bad ending, far from it, the ending was bittersweet and poignant, actually when you got over the crying, a feel good movie, one you will not forget. The acting was so real, it made you feel that you know someone just like them. The theaters should keep this movie longer so more people can see it and come out with the same feeling I did, a feeling to gather my love ones and tell them how much I love them.

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  34. joanna

    I saw the movie five times, with various people. Everyone who saw it loved it and was deeply affected by it. At every showing, the audience sat quietly and thoughtfully for some time, occasionally through all of the credits, before leaving the theatre. Like me, I feel that they needed the time to absorb the emotional impact of the movie and to master their feelings before leaving. Each time I saw the movie, I seemed to feel more deeply the emotions experienced by the film’s characters. Yes, the ending was gut-wrenching, and I felt that I had lost a son of my own when I saw the journal lying among the debris on the street. But for perhaps the first time, I truly understood, on a personal level, how all the victims and their loved ones and even acquaintances must have felt on that fateful day. And that is why I do not think that the film “exploited” or “shamefully used” 9/11 to further itself. Any film which advances our connection with others and increases our empathy and understanding of what others are going through or have gone through, can only be considered a triumph. The writer, director, producers and actors involved in this film should be very proud. To me it was a masterpiece and I can’t stop thinking about it. I have only seen a few movies which stirred such a depth of emotion, and never have I felt compelled to see a movie more than once in theatres. I know that I will want to add this film to my very limited library when the DVD is available.
    And thank you Bryan for your thoughtful and insightful review. I felt that you spoke from the heart and that you did not have any ulterior motives or preconceptions which influenced your experience of this film. Honesty and integrity are wonderful assets for a critic (of anything) to possess, but unfortunately, critics like you seem to be in the minority.

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  35. Lin

    Well said. Having lost my husband around the same time, I can assure naysayers that any trauma one experiences is like an indelible demarcation on one’s soul. The memory never leaves. The Twin Towers disaster has turned into a blind groping for Taliban leaders and revenge has replaced our grief. What “Remember Me” does is to remind us all that revenge is not the answer, but that we should live our lives as if every moment is our last. Taking the bad and making it good or better is our only hope.

    Reply

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