The review of “Remember Me” appears HERE. Do not read the story below if you do not want to know how the movie ends.
The controversy surrounding the ending of “Remember Me” seems to have to do largely with the fact that it comes as a surprise, but to be fair, the film does present the audience with a timeline, albeit a subtle one.
The murder of Ally’s mother takes place in 1991, then jumps ahead to “10 years later,” which of course, if you do the math, is 2001. We know it’s the end of the school year. Then we know it’s the summer. Then Ally makes a point of mentioning it’s Labor Day. But it doesn’t really hit you where the film is headed until Caroline’s teacher writes the date on the chalkboard: September 11, 2001.
Tyler has gone to see his father at work. He looks out the window while he waits for his father to arrive, and when the camera pans out, we see that his father’s office is in the World Trade Center. You feel like you’ve been punched in the gut as dread starts to overwhelm you. You know exactly what is going to happen to Tyler.
We never see the plane hit the tower, just people running and ash descending on the city, falling on the faces of a stunned and horrified-looking Ally and Aidan. What many people thought was going to be a typical tragic romance ends with Tyler dying on 9/11.
Many critics and viewers alike have condemned the film because they feel it exploits a national tragedy. While I may not agree, I completely understand how people might feel that way. Fetters treads a fine line here, and it’s debatable whether or not it works. Though Fetters does provide a subtle timeline, the ending comes largely as a surprise, so many people feel it was done purely for shock value, to force the audience to feel emotion in a film that may or may not have touched them until that moment.
Part of this debate could be a case of the “How soon is too soon?” question. When people go to the movies, for the most part, they probably don’t want to be reminded about 9/11. Even though it was nearly a decade ago, it still feels like it was yesterday. But if the same story were told in the same way but was set in 1941 and Tyler died at Pearl Harbor, or in 1970 and he died at Kent State, I doubt people would be as offended by it.
Personally, “Remember Me” did not give me the vibe that Fetters wanted to use 9/11 for shock value. Yes, it does come as surprise, but isn’t that exactly what happened that day? It completely blindsided everyone. When people woke up on Sept. 11, 2001, no one had any idea what was coming. The ending of “Remember Me” recreates that sense of shock, that sense of horror, that sense of overwhelming sadness.
And that’s something that probably makes a lot of people uncomfortable. But should 9/11 really remain a subject untouchable to movies? Right after it happened, most New York-set TV shows didn’t even mention it. They just wiped the Twin Towers from the skyline, choosing to move on and continue entertaining people. At that time, maybe that’s what people needed. But is almost 10 years later too soon to address it at all?
“World Trade Center” and “United 93” chose to focus entirely on 9/11 from the beginning. “Remember Me” goes at it from a different, more personal angle. It tells the story of how it changed the lives of one small group of people. Like all the individuals affected by the tragedy in real life, Tyler is just living his life when this horrifying event cuts it short. Ally wakes up feeling happy only to have her boyfriend cruelly taken away much too young.
It was a risky move, but “Remember Me” dares to make audiences remember their grief. The whole point of the movie is to remind you not to take for granted the people you love, because you never know when you might lose them. This is a lesson the characters in the film learn the hard way, as Tyler’s father loses a second child but in turn becomes more a part of his daughter’s life than ever before.
There is no more relatable way to share this message than through 9/11, something everyone in the country was affected by. It brought the nation such a powerful sense of unity, one most people would probably agree we have lost since then. Could the ending of the film have been handled differently? Maybe. But it reminds us not to let all the people who lost their lives that day have died in vain. It reminds us to honor them by appreciating the people we still have in our lives.
However you feel about the ending of the film, whether you appreciate it or it angers you, it accomplishes what I believe Fetters set out to do. It makes you think about 9/11 again. It makes you talk about it. It makes you remember.
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Follow Alexa Milan on Twitter at http://twitter.com/alexamilan.