Sunday, March 11, 2012

Triumph over Tragedy in Remember Me - New Thoughts on the Ending A second year anniversary post

~jessegirl~ March 12, 2012

There is an almost trite expression about the death of a loved one: If you love someone, let him go. Let her go. Let them go. But this is hard to do even when the death is not a tragedy. How do you get past a tragedy? 9/11? How do you let the loved one go after that? The impulse is to hold on tightly, and letting them go seems almost like betrayal. I would like to reflect on how this pertains to Tyler’s death in Remember Me.

Yes, I know some people hated or disliked this film. I know some people enjoyed it but that’s all. And some people loved it and sang its praises. Of the latter group, some people were so struck by it that they watched it repeatedly. I will, here, talk about that last group, because within that group some people cannot watch the ending and some feel compelled to do so. Why? What is the reason?

Pain. It’s everywhere. We avoid it. It comes anyway. At some point, we have to deal with it. There isn’t necessarily a right way or a wrong way; there are probably better ways and worse ways, but it is a very individual thing. Sometimes avoiding it just sends it to our subconscious and it will pop up at an inopportune moment. Sometimes facing it directly can be too intense and we cannot handle it. So we might take baby steps forward.

Response to Remember Me’s ending has been polarizing all along but I am not talking about that issue. However, I find it fascinating how those who love the film deal with the ending on subsequent viewings. They find the ending a powerful one which causes them much pain. Whether it is dealing with the lead character’s death, dealing with the grief for a friend/relative who died during the attacks, dealing with the horror of 9/11 on a larger scale, or dealing with unrelated personal losses, people respond differently. When watching the film again, some people cannot finish, cannot go to the end. Others have to finish, feel compelled.

Cannot Watch the Ending-

Why does one group, on repeat viewings, not finish the film? Generally, these people avoid the pain it poses and are not able to continue past a certain point. That is their way of dealing with the grief. To be clear, people in this group understand the ending and feel it is right for the film; they think the ending is respectful and know Fetters wrote the story using 9/11 as his starting point. First of all, these people also had to see the film again.

My fellow blogger, from: had this to say.

“Repeated viewings are a way of escaping from Tyler’s death, and from death itself. The story rolls back to the beginning, you start from scratch again…somehow you receive the power to resuscitate Tyler, pretending he didn’t die for real.” And later: “-and it’s like a miracle, life starts over again…And yet, the paradox is that repeated viewings are also a way of understanding that death is forever. For a time, you try to escape from the truth, going back and back and back again to see the film, but, as the ending grows nearer, the idea of death slowly begins to sink in.” She theorized astutely. [Thanks for that fine analysis, Kim.]

Some time ago, I wrote about multiple viewings. It was a very interesting phenomenon, given the serious subject matter, and it happened right away, right after the film’s release. It was all very personal.

So, if you want to see Tyler alive again, you watch the film again. But if you watch to the end, he dies again, and where are you? You really cannot escape unless you press ‘stop’. Remember Me has a power to wake up pain in a very unsettling way.” [Kim] Perhaps it taps into a very unconscious source which we all recognize but cannot express, cannot name. It is scarier than any horror movie. Tyler is the incarnation of all losses at that point.

My friend Kim has told me that it becomes unbearable for her at different points, but sometimes it is when they are at the beach house (and there is so much that follows that). She mentions the music, “when the melancholy music starts…”. (She knows the film so well she can see all which will come without seeing it.) For some it is when he’s in the elevator. For me, anxiety begins when Tyler picks up Caroline from school when summer vacation begins. There is this impulse to grab him, to pull him back to safety, and to pinpoint the moment when escape has become impossible.

Kim adds that a friend cannot watch the end of Titanic. I have difficulty watching entire films, excellent movies, like Sophie’s Choice and Schindler’s List, because the horror is too overwhelming, so I understand.

Must Watch the Ending

And then there are those who absolutely must see it through to the end. Why?
A couple of them generously offered their thoughts to me.
“I almost feel like it’s my duty to see it through, to stand and bear witness to all the pain, to all the loss, and to all the love and all the hope. Tyler will come with me in my heart of hearts, where I can cherish him and protect him forever.” [Jazz_Girl] and-

“No, much as it tears at my heart, I cannot bail on him either. I have to stay with him to the end and symbolically, [for] everyone else on that day too.” [nikola6]

Stay with him. I, too, have felt that I could not abandon him, that I could not leave him in that office. In a way, it is like a vigil. I am present for him. And I think this is of utmost importance. I want to see the resolution. I want to hear the music segue from tragic to triumphant. Once the ‘Morning Montage’ has started, the discomfort begins. For me, after that, I have to see it through to the end of ‘I Know You Can Hear Me’, otherwise the catharsis doesn’t have a chance. That last piece of music walks us through the emotional journey. For me, it’s a kind of tribute, a kind of affirmation. It is necessary and yet it doesn’t seem like a burden.

Marcelo Zarvos’ wonderful score makes me feel the triumph of Tyler’s spirit, his indelible mark. It is Tyler’s hope and promise. Yes, he is only on the cusp of laughter when he dies, yes his full potential goes unrealized, and yes, it is very tragic. That will remain so. But his promise remains.

Seeing it through takes you places you couldn’t get to unless you finished it. It’s like he needs to show us the rest. We have to hear him say, from beyond, the words he says to Michael, and which apply to all. We have to see him finish his journey to serenity, sit in his father’s chair, and smile like that.

We have to see his loved ones go on and see how their lives have changed because of him, that his fingerprints never faded from the lives he touched. That is what this whole film has been building up to. It is only in the last few minutes that the triumph comes, the triumph of the human spirit over the tragedy. The tragedy is always there, but the triumph envelopes it with healing power.

Tyler’s victories are all personal. He has committed to a romantic relationship. He has gotten his father to listen. He has decided to live. He has forgiven Michael. He has forgiven himself. He has come to an acceptance. He is not a martyr, nor a hero, but he has won significant internal battles.

I think if you stop before the tragedy, then everything leading up to it loses something. We want him to cheat death by avoiding the ending, but in not staying the course we only cheat Tyler of his victory.

While he is in his father’s office I do not even want to grab him away anymore because what he does there—before—is too important to forego. It seems small in the grand scale of things perhaps, to witness that serenity on his face, but it is the stuff of everything meaningful. And it is at that point that I know Tyler has taught us what he knows about grieving, which will come in handy when we grieve him.

What did he teach us about grieving? Well, he did not try to escape its gauntlet. He probed and tested in both reckless and reflective ways, searching for answers. He could not let it go, not until he knew, knew in a fundamental way. And when he was certain, he could accept and be content. So, despite the sharp poignancy of him dying at just the moment of emotional triumph, Tyler has shown us the way.

I have come to the point where, for me, the victory of the spirit displayed in Remember Me has overcome the tragedy. This is a hard-won stance. For a long time, it was always about “the breath-taking beauty of his promise taken away just when it was a bud, ready to blossom”. It was about what was taken away, what was lost. About what haunted. About how hard it was to bear the role of survivor. It was about not being able to deal with death. It was all about the tragedy. It took me a long time to get through that to the triumph. But triumph is meaningless without the struggle it took to get there. It’s a big word, and should not be used lightly.

But now, I can focus on the victory. I can enjoy his contentment, his smiles and so much of that occurs in his last scene, in the office. The victory of his accomplishments and the promise of his acceptance are really beautiful to watch in this final scene. Even as he stands by the window. Even so. Because, despite the horror of the end coming to him, he has won. Tyler has won. And instead of it being about what we have lost in him, it is about what we have been given and about what he has gained. The focus has changed.

Slowly the focus shifted from the pain and loss and a sharp feeling of the tragic nature of it all, to enjoyment of his accomplishments and a sense of his triumph. Don’t get me wrong. The pain is still there, made more poignant coming, as it does, hard on the heels of Tyler’s success. This is the third response. It is beyond ‘staying with him’.

Love and Grief: Holding Tight, then Letting Go

I have looked at the structure of Remember Me many times in different ways. There is the framing, the bookending, the symbolism, the circularity. I think it is ironic that the essence of Tyler’s journey becomes our own. We leave him and then start again. Now when he makes his journey through grief, it has become our own too. He gets out of the quagmire of grief and then his death sends us into that same quicksand. We watch his development, his story, as if it is only his, not ours. But then his endpoint thrusts us back to his beginning, or the circumstances of his beginning.

I am coming to believe that the most shocking and haunting thing is not 9/11 specifically. It is that we have been drawn in beyond empathy. We have been put in Tyler’s own situation of grief. It does become our own. So, at the end of his journey, we are forced to start our own and come again to his beginning, grappling with his grief. It comes full circle.

At first, Tyler holds tightly to memories and issues concerning Michael. But at the end, Tyler sets his brother free. He lets him go. Do we not, in mourning, clutch the lost loved one desperately? We must, until we have worked through the pain, as Tyler does. And then, if we are successful, we can let go. Not until after a lot of hard internal work, like Tyler does, can we accomplish this.

When you watch the ending of Remember Me, you can go beyond the pain, beyond the vigil even, to a really brave act. You can feel his triumphant spirit, and then you can let him go. Tyler set Michael’s spirit free. You can now set Tyler’s spirit free, so that it can soar. It is no longer about your pain, your grief. It is what comes beyond tragedy. The tragedy remains but you focus on Tyler’s triumph. What did Michael teach Tyler? What has your lost loved one taught you? Because of the structure of the film, Tyler has taught us that healing is possible.

Letting go is now not a betrayal; it sets the loved one’s spirit free.
On this second anniversary of the release of this fine film, I have been pondering these things.

-For Kim’s insightful article:

-Jazz_Girl and nikola6: Sept. 20, 2011 thread.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tyler Laughs

by Jessegirl

Can we dispel Tyler Hawkins’ brooding persona? Does the moody and morose young man in Remember Me ever break that barrier to complete joy? Is it in him when we get to know him? When we leave him? Because an ear-to-ear laugh, eyes crinkling, mouth open, chest shaking, would put any doubts to rest, wouldn’t they?

I thought I’d track the range of Tyler’s smiles and see what I can come up with. But before that, let’s remember what joy the actor who plays Tyler is capable of. Inside Robert Pattinson is a huge love of life and it is apparent by his ubiquitous, spontaneous broad grins and laughs which show us Joy. Infectious, full-throttle beaming things. Would Tyler ever get there, to that hilarious and radiant place? Had he lived, would Tyler have laughed like the actor does?

One can see a progression in Tyler’s general demeanour. The first time his father bails him out his expressions after the meeting are of frustration.

Contrast this with the second time Charles springs him after the vandalism episode at the school. This time Tyler smiles, but still only at his Dad’s back as Charles is leaving, because Tyler was surprised by his Dad’s approval.

So, only when Charles is out of sight, does Tyler really smile fully.

The contentment has begun, but Tyler keeps it to himself, can’t let his Dad in on it yet because it is too new.

Another such comparison can be made in his treatment of the receptionist. After his first bail-out, while he waits for his father in the reception area, he smirks at her in defiance when she upbraids him for smoking and he apparently wonders why he can’t use the decorative bowl as an ashtray. “Guess it was just here to tease me.” This instance of entitlement is disingenuous in tone and comes through with his mocking snicker. But that last morning Tyler grins boyishly in greeting, hands in the air like truce flags.

Here he is all play, almost giggly. She turns her back on him, not in the mood for or trusting his games, but we know he has come a long way emotionally.

Other things indicate the enormous internal journey he has made. Right from the beginning he stumbles into his room. Later he stomps out of the sweets shop. Coming out of the bar with Aiden and the girls, he wobbles unsteadily. (One his first date with Ally he walks backwards to face her, which is interesting, because inside he is actually making forward progress.) He stumbles around trying getting his bicycle to go to his Dad’s office the night of the boardroom fight, and when he returns, he staggers even more. He clumsily steps out of the bathtub, albeit in good humour, after he and Ally have their water squirting game. After his beating at the hands of Neil, he slips and flails at the stool, crumpling in defeat.

But by the end, Tyler skips down the hall to his father’s office. He moves serenely in the room. The troubled youth who stumbles through life transformed into the happy boy with a spring in his step, looking forward to seeing his father.

As we all do, Tyler behaves differently with each person. For his needy mother, the
smile is dutiful, as she adjusts his collar at Michael’s grave. It is the sombre tone of the meeting partly, but also his way of warding off her expectations. A lot is riding on him now that his older brother is gone.

At the sweets shop a bit later, he gives Caroline a genuine and broad, loving, lingering smile.

Another day, on the Alice statue, he smiles at her ‘yuletide homicide’ joke.

Again with Caroline, when he picks her up from school, both when he relates his pleasure at the book he and Michael shared, and when he explains his battered face with a joke ,

his smiles are playful and teasing.

On her last day of school, Caroline gets his big smile and outstretched arms in welcome.

He is her shelter in the storm. Brother and sister exchange more full grins when he agrees enthusiastically to go to her art show –“abso-freaking-lutely!”

He would not ever let her down.

When Tyler smiles at Aiden’s S.L.U.T. idea and later makes up a joke about ‘authors who have slept together...’ it is as one buddy to another.

However, other guys might have laughed full-out about the ladies’ tote, in the spirit of male bonding. Not Tyler. And other guys wouldn’t zone-out while shelving books immediately after tossing out a joke about writers. Reacting to Aiden’s intervention, Tyler grins at Aiden’s expense. “When was the last time you had just one drink?” he asks, smirking.

Then, at the bar, cigarette in mouth,Tyler chuckles at his friend’s unsuccessful attempt to make time with Megan. And, in the jail, when Aiden is lambasting him for not taking their situation seriously, Tyler sneers at his buddy’s use of the word ‘nihilistic’.

Not only did he dismiss his companion’s concern, Tyler did it with insult. Not his finest hour.

When Ally enters the picture, things change. Tyler oozes charm with what I’ll call ‘pick up smiles’. Interacting with her in the student lounge, he smiles and grins a lot, but it’s all part of the game, and, in my opinion, at this point, shallow and artificial.

On their first date at the Gandhi restaurant his smile reflects his candid confusion over her dessert first philosophy.

Then, at the fair, as he’s about to attempt to win her the panda, his lopsided smirk and raised eyebrow indicates good-humoured determination.
“You’re not 21,” he contradicts, his brittle smile showing us he knows he’s been duped.

Then, as she’s about to leave in the taxi, he smiles sheepishly after she’s rebuffed his attempted kiss.

Their next date, at his place, is the next step in getting to know each other and it is full of flirting and self-conscious behaviour. Tyler wants Ally to like him.

As he presses raw spaghetti noodles into the pot, he smiles, telling her he comes from a long line of Irish falconers. After dinner, he smiles when she comes to the sink to do dishes because his incompetence annoys her. This amuses him and one wonders whether it’s yet another move in the game.

He sprays her. Naughty boy, all big eyes, he wears a fatuous grin on his face as he watches for her reaction
Then the bathtub scene ratchets the date- teasing up a couple of notches and Tyler sports a full toothy grin as he tries to retrieve a wet cigarette from his pocket and then shoots her a goofy grin with the drenched ciggie dangling from his mouth.

Tyler is actually having fun, and the smiles are frequent and genuine.

And now Janine. Tyler and his father’s executive assistant seem to be in tune with each other’s moods. In the first bail out scene Janine asks after his health but, after looking him up and down, draws her own conclusion from his battered face and his breath. It seems like these two have a short hand. In a later scene, after Tyler and Ally have made love and he goes to the diner to write, Tyler encounters Janine, who is making a morning coffee run. She smiles at him with tender care and he returns this.

This is one of those scenes brimming with unspoken and deep affection and I have gone to it a number of times before. It nurtures this broken boy, and I’ll warrant Tyler knows Janine’s routine, looks forward to these encounters and to words about his father. Janine brings out the boy in Tyler; his smile in this interchange is full of long-standing goodwill. A very touching scene, played perfectly by Burton and Pattinson.

Smiles are not always indicators of happiness, of course. We all know it’s more
complicated than that. When Tyler blows out the candles on his 22nd birthday cake, although he is in shadow, he smiles. This is one of those complicated expressions. It is dutiful. His Mom is there, as are the others. They expect that of him. But his smile is so very wistful, almost sad. He is thinking of his brother and of the significance of the twenty-second year of life. For me, this is one of the saddest moments in the film. The foreshadowing was screaming at the viewer in its blatancy. The candles lit flames, snuffed out by his breath, and leaving the screen in deep shadow. Tyler is darkest of all, his charcoal form and the smile I talked about barely visible after he blows out the light.

There are two distinct opposing trajectories operating here, the destiny which pulls
Tyler closer to his death, and his inner path towards happiness. Ironically, after this foreboding birthday scene, Tyler’s smiles are more frequent. This is how the two paths clash.

From this point, we see Tyler’s growing contentment, his healing. At the beach house, with Ally and his family, he grins lazily at Aiden’s silly charades moves.

A moment later, he is subdued and reflective as he puts his hand tenderly on Ally’s head. Tranquil. Then, on the train ride home with Ally and Aiden, Tyler is all smiles. He is HAPPY!

True enough, the whole issue with Neil, Tyler’s confession to Ally, her rejection, his move to forgiveness, all derail this achievement and they sink him back into a big brood all over again. But by that time his destiny rams in, he has retrieved that hard-won contentment.

Tyler does nothing but smile on September 11th:

Tells Ally he loves her.

Big smiles as he leaves Ally and Aiden in the apartment.

Crinkly smile while he talks to his Dad on the phone.

A secret smile on the elevator on the way up to the office.

A boyish, playful grin for the receptionist.

A serene smile while he looks at the screensaver.

A peaceful smile as he’s about to go to the window. He keeps it as he approaches. He is content.

And then destiny’s trajectory hits its target.

Tyler was on the cusp of laughing the way Pattinson does. He never achieved that level of pure, spontaneous, unadulterated bliss, or levity. It was coming. Joy was on the horizon, But as we all know, so was something else. The point is, he was a man in motion, battling inner demons and winning because he’d forged alliances. Tyler could brood with the best of them, but even when he edged towards despair, his sense of self-preservation kicked in. His brooding was not fatalistic but antagonistic. He had the heart of a fighter. He seems to have had to fight for every
smile, or at least it could be said that every smile was like a victory.

No, Tyler never laughs in that infectious way, spilling his joy into the air around him and sending it to those around him in a big booming way. He does not seed the air with exhilaration. His serenity is good but it is still not the intoxicating relish of a young man. But, given a bit more time, he would have made it so. The promise was right there, in the language of his body and face in those moments with Janine, before. It was a promise one could count on.

And at the end, joy is an embryo, tucked inside his healing soul.