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.
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.