Thursday, November 25, 2010

Remember Me's Tag Line - "Live in the Moments"

As a Thanksgiving treat, Jessegirl has written a lovely article that examines Remember Me's tag line and title in terms of Remember Me's past, present and future.

~by jessegirl November 25, 2010


So many audience members, commenting on their experience of Remember Me, express their take on its tag line, “live in the moments”. Invariably they see it as a message about life, even a lesson, which the film has brought home to them. Some take it to heart and vow to change their behaviour. In essence, people interpret it as a call to appreciate and be thankful for what they have now. This has something is common with the message of the North American Thanksgiving holiday.

Will Fetters’ simple words—which did not make it into the film—are, I think, most indicative of the tag line’s meaning. From the original script:


"You can’t know
So don’t take it for granted
But don’t take it too seriously
Don’t postpone what you want
Don’t leave anything misunderstood
Make sure the people you care about know
Make sure they know how you really feel
Because just like that
It could end."




Tag Lines:
Let’s backtrack a bit.

Tag lines are created for marketing purposes and act like catchy sub-titles which give people a little bit more information about the film, especially its tone. So we have: “It’s a job. It isn’t personal...well, maybe a little”, which lets everyone know that The Bounty Hunter isn’t a serious drama but is a romantic comedy.

This device will help pull in the right audience. Some titles, like She’s Out of My League, need little explanation, but tag lines like: “How can a 10 go for a 5?” are one-line promises that you will have a good laugh when you see the movie. One of Hurt Locker’s tag lines implies gritty nobility: “You don’t have to be a hero to do this job. But it helps.”

And Alice in Wonderland goes for the biggest demographic in its unabashed “Fantastic fun for the whole family”. Most of Dear John’s many tag lines emphasized gushy romance, for example: “Love brought them together. Will fate tear them apart?” This reads like something off the back cover of a Harlequin romance.

Generally speaking, I don’t think this marketing tool is meant to deliver a life lesson or philosophical message. Although Precious indicated hard-core realism capped by a general conclusion about life, spelling it out for you: “Life is hard. Life is short. Life is painful. Life is....Precious.”

I have never, as I recall, taken tag lines to heart or pondered them in any way. They’re just the slogans or jingles for movies, nothing more. “Live in the Moments” is no exception and never struck me as being very meaningful. At first it even sounded trite to me. The film itself is profound in its exquisite execution of a poignant story. Once seen, the film begs a wise tag line, something which will stick with you. For me the title, ‘Remember Me’, doesn’t need anything else.


Live in the Moments:
Bear with me as I analyze this phrase a bit. It can be taken many ways.
Jimmy Fallon, in his interview with Pattinson, determined, off the cuff, the tag line meant: “Do what you want, ‘cause you never know what’s going to happen.” He was kidding. This reminds me of the old song, “Let’s live for today”, which has a reckless connotation and seems hedonistic, an endless party, you know, sex-drugs-rock-‘n-roll. Enjoy but don’t take responsibility.

Or does it mean carpe diem, because if you don’t seize the day it will be lost? That you will have wasted it? Some of those commenting use words like:
Live –intensely, every moment of your life;
Live –in the best possible way;
Live –in the present (not in the past);
Live –life to the fullest;
Live –a good life, with good intentions;
Live –every day as if it were your last;

The thing is, what is the best, the fullest, a good life, to one person is different for another. The terrorists attacking that day no doubt thought they were living that day as if it were their last, living it to the fullest. Believe me, they seized that day!

The tag line, by itself, has nothing to anchor it and clarify it. Living in the moments means nothing separated from Will’s words about expressing love to those you care about because “just like that, it could end”. “I love you,” Tyler and Ally said to each other that last morning. That was what was important. That was part of what Will meant. It’s not living for today because you don’t know what tomorrow brings. It’s telling and showing the people you care about love, because anything could happen tomorrow, anything could take them away, or you, like Tyler was taken away. Just like that.

Live in the moments”, without the rest of the sentiment, can be interpreted too many ways and is not good enough to carry the burden of insistence. (While I am pondering all this, am I ‘living in the moment’?)



Past, Present, Future:
It’s ironic that the title and the tag line contradict each other. If you are remembering, you are living in the past, not ‘in the moments’, not in the present. Everything about memorializing, never forgetting, is bringing the past into the present, keeping the past—in this case, Tyler’s life and 9/11—present, always. And ‘always’ means the future.

And when people ‘get on with their lives’, it means they work towards a future, like Aiden, buckling down to his studies because his friend’s death sobered him up pretty quickly. So Aiden’s partying mode, his ‘live for today’ way of being, was discarded for a more serious attitude. I don’t think Aiden and Tyler left things unsaid between them. I think they knew they loved each other.


One of the most significant things we do is ponder the past and learn from it. And we are always in the past when we are grieve, re-living the moments we had that person with us, or those moments we screwed up—all the Hawkins except Caroline do this—or moments we had no power over—like Ally in the subway, or Neil, absent at a crucial time. Grieving takes us to the dark night of the soul, to confront monsters more powerful than those in any fantasy world.

Grieving is not just a snap-shot parade of remember-me-moments which we want to relive—like Charles—or a journal in which we talk to the lost love because we miss him so much—like Tyler; it is guilt that we didn’t get it right, that we were somehow responsible. And guilt keeps us stuck in the past. Guilt is a very necessary thing, in the right circumstances; it would, for example, have served the hijackers well. Instead, they deluded themselves into thinking they were martyrs while they were slaughtering innocents. I bring this up to remind us that guilt has its purpose but, like any necessary thing, it can be misplaced.

Why should Tyler feel guilty about Michael? And why should he think Michael is guilty? Why should Neil feel guilty, for not being there, in the subway, that night? Diane and Charles, like any parents who lose a child, whether that child is a baby or a young adult, whether through accident, illness, murder, feel guilty because it is their job to protect. A dead child means you’ve failed. And some of the guilt could be well placed. Perhaps—we don’t know the details---Charles was so overbearing that he killed Michael’s hope for his future. (I’ll get back to hope and the future later.)



Living in the Past:
If anything obliterates the present, it is grief. A veil or film lies between the mourner and the world. He experiences things through filmy glasses; he knows the day is clear but an invisible veil hampers him from seeing it that way. It is removed from him, just out of reach, not quite there.

In many ways, Tyler’s preoccupation illustrates this [I covered this fully in Tyler in Remember Me - The Human Face of Tragedy and Tyler's Journal ] When Tyler keeps scribbling in his journal, he is in that other world. Should he be more present, more ‘in the moment’? Should he be fully present to what is in front of him? Well, apart from the fact that he can’t be, I don’t think he should be either, not at all. Tyler’s ruminations about his brother and about life are crucial to his healing and to the way he will be able to live his life in the future.


And should Charles refrain from living in the frozen past of his family’s life as it loops on his screensaver? It might not be the best way to keep his family close, but at least it includes them all, and he can imagine Michael there, imagine life before he and Diane parted ways.

But Charles is treasuring a past when the family was intact, instead of making sure his loved ones know every day that he loves them. The wall he has built around himself to shield him from his own guilt and loss has to come down so that he can turn to his loved ones instead of turning them away.

Charles needs a wake-up call, and Tyler desperately tries to give him one. One of the saddest things in the story is that Charles was just beginning to waken out of his guilt-induced stupor when Tyler died. Charles is the character who most needs to ‘live in the moments’, to cease taking for granted what he has. The irony may be that by living in the past, seeing Michael’s face every day at his desk, he is giving thanks for what he had but ignoring the beautiful children he has left.


Weighted down with real or misplaced guilt, the characters are stuck in the past and grappling with their internal demons. What will get them out of it? Well, in this way the film was perfect. Tyler’s voice-over, simple, short yet eloquently saying it all: “and I forgive you”. This is the biggie. This is the hardest thing, yet it is the only thing which will get all of them out of the past. Tyler has forgiven his father, and Michael. It is unstated, but Tyler has also forgiven himself, -for not being what he couldn’t be for Michael, for being what he shouldn’t have been to Ally, and just for surviving. That’s why Tyler is so serene at the end.

Coulter, Fetters and Pattinson thought it was just acceptance, but it went deeper.
We all saw that calm and serene softening look on Tyler’s face; he was untroubled, facing the day. It is ironic, but at the end Tyler was living fully in the moment. He was healing. Relationships wouldn’t be miraculously smooth sailing, but a good start had been made. After forgiveness, we can heal. Until then, not. Until then, ‘live in the moments’ is impossible.



The Future:
I have touched on the past: “Remember Me”.
I have talked about the present: “Live in the Moments”.

And what about the future? Well, it is what can be faced, as Tyler did at the end, only after forgiveness and love has made it possible to heal. The future is Charles and Diane linking arms at the gravesite. It is Aiden becoming studious. It is Charles with his arm on Caroline’s shoulder, then holding her hand in the museum. It is Neil and Ally hugging each other tightly. It is Ally on the subway, holding fast to her memories of her mother and of Tyler, and then letting their spirits go. None of them take each other for granted anymore. But it took the death of their dear Tyler and Janine to do that. It took death. It was a high price.

Remember Me explores the past and bids us never to forget. It reminds us to make the most of every moment, make sure the people in our lives know how we feel about them. And, Remember Me points us in the direction of a hopeful future.

The future is being able to believe that the spirits of Ally’s mother, of Michael, of Janine, of Tyler, can and will both stay with their loved ones, yet also soar away. Stay and soar. Their fingerprints will never fade from our lives. They will touch us and we can hear them, always. The future is hope.

Tyler at that window. Our hearts stop. But. Tyler at that window is hope.
He has to know we can hear him.

7 comments:

WhyIstheRumAlwaysGone said...

A beautiful article jessegirl, deep and broad and thoughtful, exploring soimany aspects of the film. This tag (which was unfortunately changed in France to something like "some stories stay with you forever) is deeper than it looks and starts a whole train of thoughts about the film and our outlook on life. It speaks volumes of the power of the film that the French viewers came up with the same ideas as you without knowing the initial tag, however: the film is the tag, in a way, and people understood it implicitly.

solas said...

Jessegirl, as usual a thoughtful and well-writen piece. I especially am almost knocked over with how you perceive and explain Charles' 'living in the frozen past of his family’s life as it loops on his screensaver.' Wow-Jesse--and here I thought I was the only psychologist around here! ;-) However, although I do agree with much of what you write, I do disagree a bit as well: I do not equate grieving with guilt.
True, often, very often, there is guilt with the grieving-- guilt over being alive, over not doing enough for the loved one to remain, over things that were said in anger that cannot be taken back, etc. But that is not grieving.
Grieving is feeling a loss, that someone has been stolen, kidnapped, from the world you know and you know you cannot get him back; someone has been ripped from you as if a limb was torn off in a freak accident--and the doctors cannot patch it back on. ANd although you can eventually learn to compensate for a lost limb, have prosthetic fitted, or adaptive devices tailor-made, you know deep down that it isn't really YOU, that new limb, that adaptive toy; you are never really whole again. That is grieving. It never really goes away, that pain and the phantom pain as well, and the memories of once having had that limb or that nose, or whatever part of you was ripped away.
There is a story in the Hebrew Bible about when Rachel was dying after giving birth, and she named that new son Ben-oni--son of my suffering. But Jacob, her husband, who worked 7 years and then another 7 years to have Rachel whom he loved so very much, named the baby Bin-yamin--son of my right hand. Rachel was a part of him as much as was his right hand, the hand he needed to do everything. And when she died, he could go on, he could adapt, as does one who loses his right hand, but that loss is always there, always in one's face. He was forever incomplete. THAT is grieving.
As for that tag line-- I don't agree with living in the moment alone--true that when you are experiencing something, you ought to be in that moment, not far away with your thoughts; when you are experiencing someone it should be in the moment as I-Thou and not as I-it. But to forever live in the moment at the expense of planning, of responsibility, is more of stimulus-response than evoking human thought processes and awareness. In my comment to one of your past postings, when I told of my rush of awareness in the shock and trauma of surviving a terror attack of body parts raining down and around me, I wrote that I wondered about the lady whose leg (with high heel still on it) hit the windshield near me, and who she was, how she lived, if she left anything behind to be remembered by. ANd then I wondered who would remember me, and in what way, if I hadn't survived. THAT is a real part of humanity and human-ness, that stage of generativity and maturity, that I hit (or that hit me) at such a young age: I wanted to leave something behind in this world, I wanted to be (and hopefully in a good way) remembered. In the ways of my people, we have a phrase we say after referring to one has passed on: May his (or her) memory be for a blessing.
The title IS the real 'tag'-- the message, the lesson, the link, the homage: Remember Me.

InstantKarmaGirl said...

Tyler at that window. Our hearts stop. But. Tyler at that window is hope.


Seriously, this is the the only movie that can make tears prickle my eyes when I even think about it. It is because of the heartbreak, but also because of the hope.

jessegirl said...

Thanks, dear friends--Rum, Solas and Karma--for giving me feedback about this article. I appreciate it. You always make me think and I need to hear your unique voices.

Rum, interesting about the way the French changed the tag line and the outcome.

Solas, you have shared so much, and I am humbled by your personal experiences.
Thanks for your analysis of grief and guilt and how grief is about that loss that leaves you 'forever incomplete', as with Jacob. Oh God, loss is the central fact of grief, and the closer, more dear the person, the more excruciating the loss. No question. The coupling of guilt with grief is, though, I think, hard to separate. Whether warranted, misplaced or not, guilt, when present in the mourner, is so entangled with the pain of the loss that, in my opinion, the two are part of each other. I cannot separate them like you do. However, I think that being able to shed the guilt somewhere along the line, will help the healing process. (And I acknowledge that even healed, if you have lost someone dear to you, you will always be incomplete.) I think that we always wonder if there was anything we could have done—or retracted—that would have changed the outcome and kept the loved one with us. In some cases our actions would have made a difference and saved that life, but much of the time we are powerless. This is actually arrogant because it presupposes we have more power over death than we do, even in the case of suicides.
It’s interesting that you touch on how you would be memorialized after death, because when I researched this tag line, some people had brought that up as well. They wanted to live their lives in such a way that they would be remembered in a positive way. We all want to leave our mark on the world, to leave something of value behind. And the film’s title pretty much points to that on its own.
That brings me to more thoughts. When we die, we go away, and our loved ones are left behind without us, are incomplete, as you say. I think part of grief is feeling you have been left behind without the love of your dead dear one present in your life and you have to go on without them. That is the hard part. So you have to cherish every moment you have with him/her while you can.

LTavares2010 said...

Dear Jessegirl

Your article reminded me about many important things as the relentlessness of time, but especially the comprehension that life does not mean getting stuck to facts of the past or just do not forget but it is a way to continue with the legacy of people we love. We are influenced by this heritage. I always wonder whether Tyler had not died, if Charles would be really capable to devote himself to their children again?
I confess that when I saw Caroline in that scene at the museum near to the end of the film, even accompanied by his father, it broke my heart. She looks strong, perhaps because the presence of Tyler enlighten her spirit as well as he enlightens Aidan, Diane, Ally and us. That is remember. That is living.

P.S. Sorry for my English, please.

jessegirl said...

Lais,
Yes--I think people know my thoughts on this pretty well by now--Tyler had already breached his father's defenses, during the boardroom scene. It might have been a slower process, but Charles would most definitely have changed towards his children.
The sad thing is that Tyler's death, at that time, would bring Charles low in other ways, but I've not thought about a speculated future.
Caroline without Tyler, man, that's hard, even with Charles there. No one could replace that special bond brother and sister had.

Bonnie said...

I couldn't stop crying when the movie end :'(

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