Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ally and Tyler: Lovers in Remember Me

Jessegirl's fabulous companion piece to Emilie and Robert - Portraying Lovers in Remember Me takes an in depth look at the character of Ally and her relationships in the film.

This is a companion piece to: Emilie de Ravin and Robert Pattinson: Portraying Lovers in Remember Me

~by jessegirl~ January 28, 2011

No, Remember Me is not really a romantic drama. But the lovers are still at the center of it and their relationship impacts central themes. Ally and Tyler, like all good lovers, touch each other in ways deeper than just the physical, and it is that which helps heal them both.

The first time they make love is in the center of the movie. (Using the screencaps as the way to gauge time, at #4452 out of approximately #8734, Ally and Tyler become physically intimate.)

For some reason, this seems significant to me. Ally has taken refuge at Tyler’s after her father hit her. There she stands, leaning against a door frame, all sexy and soft after her nap, mussed blonde hair, a little bare shoulder and a lot of bare leg exposed.

Tyler lets her know Aiden is not there and waits for the implication to register. She nods and gives Tyler an interested but still uncertain look. He approaches her very slowly, at first with his hands still in his pockets. He waits for her reaction, stops, resumes, stops.

Then he continues his slow move towards her, as if she is a skittish animal, but also because this is a big step for him too. Steps. Tyler knows this is no toothbrush girl for him and that this sex will be meaningful. He, too, is apprehensive, so each step he takes is pondered. His advance is drawn out. I’ve never seen a slower approach. It serves to build anticipation. As their eyes lock, his walk across that tiny room is already foreplay. Once he has a bead on her, he looks down, breaking eye contact because she’s already his. She, however, hasn’t taken her eyes off him. He looks up again and they are only a foot apart, but still he waits, coming at her with quiet and riveting intensity. Even in profile one could see Tyler was part predator, part vanquished, all sexually-charged. Did a pin drop? The soft, padded steps of a big cat slowly enclosing his prey, but, oddly, anxious of what he will reveal, of what he will give.

Their relationship had changed when he showed her his tattoo and entrusted her with information about Michael. He’d exposed his wound to her. This was big, and done so well by both actors in the film. That was when they knew they had something more meaningful, when they stopped the teasing, the banter, the tests. That was when they were willing to take a bigger risk. Therefore, when Tyler takes that slow walk to her, he is agreeing to exposure. He already knows Ally demands a lot from a man and he is ready. So, acting on pheromones and faith, they make love.

The actual love-making scene is PG-13 all the way, and with not much use for modesty patches. It probably got no more final footage than the time it took Tyler to move across that room.

Their morning after sex is suffused in a gentle amber glow, filmed from above, and shows such tenderness. We now know they’ve cemented their physical union.

Who is Ally Craig? Ally is the first character we see and also the very last one. Fetters has called her our guide. I think Tyler is the greater guide in the film, but, yes, Ally guides too. [I have devoted a whole piece to Tyler. See: Tyler in Remember Me: The Human Face of Tragedy] Now let’s look at Ally a bit.

Where she comes from?
One wonders how or whether Ally filled the absence of her mother for ten crucial years of childhood. There is no evidence of any other motherly figure in her life. Instead, Ally becomes a partner to her father. These two have clearly established a practical routine and their symbiotic relationship works for them. She puts a pill into his morning coffee, and whether it’s a vitamin or a prescription medication—for stress?—she does it so casually that we know it is part of the daily routine she and her father have.

Neil actually retains control when he says he’ll drive her even though she just told him someone else would, and one wonders how many other people, Ally’s friends, he has kept from her. Just how much is he isolating her from others? He wants to keep her close, not just out of a need to protect her, but also so he won’t be alone. He is standing in her way and Ally strains at the bit. The interesting question is why Neil himself has not moved on, not become attached to another woman at some point during those 10 years, someone who could relieve his loneliness and also be at least a motherly influence on his daughter? Could one imagine Neil on a date? Perhaps the same guilts Tyler and his Dad feel about Michael have imprisoned Neil, but he doesn’t mind staying there because of the comfortable set up with Ally.

The absent mother
So, Ally, relates to her Dad as a partner, not as a child. She has become this strong, independent young woman. Still, one wonders how she survived without a mother. What makes Ally such a strong person? Ally has had no substitute maternal figure in her life, but Tyler and Charles have. Although his own mother is desperately damaged by the loss of Michael and it seems that this has hampered her ability to parent, other women seem to mother Tyler in various ways. Janine does so, and even the waitress in the diner does. That seems to indicate many women might mother him on the fly, at any time.

Also, Janine looks out for Charles’ welfare constantly and is his shield, his protector against the outside world, against his own son if need be. Push to shove, Janine is in Charles’ corner.

And, of course, Ally is a nurturing figure for her father. The males have mother substitutes, but not Ally. So she becomes the nurturer.

Ally nurtures, supports, rescues. It is her love—partially—that rescues Tyler, wakes him up, brings him back to life. Tyler does need to be bailed out, even though he denies it to his father. He needs to be bailed out of incipient despair. His father knows only how to use his financial resources to get Tyler out of trouble. Ally, however, gets to the heart of the matter, partly by forcing Tyler to step outside his comfort zone and deal with her no-nonsense way.

Ally, Ally, Ally...arguably the strongest character in Remember Me, is extremely resilient. First, after her mother’s death. She picks herself up after Neil hits her, and she does not stick around because she will not be a victim. Then she slaps Tyler, and leaves, after finding out about his betrayal. She demands more from the men in her life. Only when they demonstrate that they will give more, does she return. As Coulter says, “Ally doesn’t take shit from anyone”.

And, the ultimate resilience, in the context of the story, is how she deals with Tyler’s death.

Although everyone in Remember Me–except Aiden—is wounded by grief, Ally is the most resilient. Neil is a real handful, with major grief and anger issues. Then along comes Tyler, the lost soul, caught behind the bars of his grief, guilt and anger. This is one high maintenance guy.

One could speculate that her mother’s death brought about Ally’s career plans, that she is determined to make the world a better place by focusing on criminal justice social work.

Ally is studious, has career plans, unlike Tyler. We see her speaking up in class. We see her reading at the student hall when she first meets Tyler. She is reading on her bed when she should be getting ready to go on her date. Tyler reads and works in a bookstore because he likes books, and he writes, in the journal at least. And it must be reiterated that that journal is one powerful tool for him, necessary. [I covered its importance in: Tyler’s Journal] But we know he is not focused on studies at all.

Ally is also fun-loving though. The bathtub and panda scenes show that. Furthermore, it is the first time we see Tyler really having fun. He’s actually in the moment and enjoying himself. She teases him (pretentious name).

Tyler lets Ally in. That's significant. It means, among other things, that he trusts Ally with his beloved little sister and with his broken mother. When introduced to Tyler’s family, Ally folded in.

She engaged his mother in dialogue—‘second member of the family I’ve done dishes with’—and had a conversation with Caroline aimed at winning the young girl over. Caroline accepted Ally but, did you see how she subtly looks her over first? Checking her out. Was she good enough for Tyler? Ally gives Caroline a story about her mother, about what she shared with her. Ally is skilled enough at finding a way into Caroline's world by finding an anecdote about art which not only reaches out to Caroline's world but also reaches inside to Ally's store of memories about her mother. So Ally, her Mom and Caroline are joined. Cool.

And the way Ally was handling the conflict between Tyler and his father at the Oak Room demonstrated her propensity to keep the peace. However, in that scene, the men were too focused on their long-standing antagonism to benefit from it. Ally becomes the bridge, the connection, the peacemaker between many of the other characters. She is the ally of all of them, in a way. The dove of peace.

The second sex scene, the up-against-the-wall, no holds-barred, violent and desperate grab, kept viewers transfixed. There is so much in the lovers’ lives that culminated in this concentrated passion. I won’t analyze it all. But the scene does so many things, some emotional, some symbolic. The big symbol here is the Picasso Amnesty poster. I have examined this in a previous article [Bars and Birds: Prison and Freedom in Remember Me]. In so many ways Tyler is a prisoner, behind the bars of this grief, guilt, rage, and numerous conflicts. He can’t find a way out. He is, symbolically, behind bars.

So, Tyler comes back from a discouraging argument with his father in the boardroom. He is frustrated that his efforts at breaking his father down seemed to fail, and feels rejected by the parent he needs so much. Tyler also feels impotent and unloved in a fundamental way. Ally sees him stumble around, so wounded she exerts all her nurturing power to soothe him. She sees in him a great, suffering beast she wants to caress and calm. He wants that, but he also needs to release his flood of impotent rage to prove he is a man, to exert that power sexually. This is really primal stuff. As Tyler leans his head on the wall in defeat, Ally puts a hand on his shoulder. When he turns to her, we catch a glimpse of the Picasso poster. Then the lovers embrace violently, groping at each other as if that were the only sustenance for them in the world.

What will it take to free Tyler? A number of things, because it’s complicated, but Ally is key. Her strength and love save him, wake him to new possibilities. So, when you look at the poster think of Tyler as the prisoner, staring out desperately from behind those bars. Part of Tyler’s journey is towards freedom. One of my friends and fellow blogger came to a great insight on this poster, independent of my musing. As Tyler is the prisoner, Ally is the dove of peace. She rescues him from the prison of grief which he has created for himself, from his lost confusion. Notice in this screencap she is snuggling up to Tyler, her hair dove-like, feathered softness. Not herself a damsel-in-distress, in a kind of role reversal, she rescues him.
[Thank you, “WhyistheRumalwaysgone”] And Tyler is staring like the prisoner in the poster. He is not yet free, because other forces are at work, but he holds the ‘dove’ in his arms.

And then later, Tyler must confess. Prisoner indeed. He does, and Ally leaves him.
But she does return to support the family after the bullying incident left them hovering around a hurt Caroline. Ally joins Tyler as he sits on the front stoop, smoking. He doesn’t look at her because he is so depressed and overwhelmed with all that has gone on and asking for forgiveness is, damn it, hard. Tyler only says things like: “I know you didn’t come for me”—which we know she has—and “You’re amazing.” Ally, out of camera focus, just listens, her face revealing her changing emotions.

This scene is very minimalist. These two are navigating their way through unknown terrain, stepping carefully, not making any grand gestures of either contrition or forgiveness, but are slowly, very tentatively, moving towards reconciliation. He can’t look at her, he’s so scared. She tries to make eye contact but it’s hopeless. They don’t know how little time they have left.

The shot of Ally smiling on the subway had been imagined by Fetters and Coulter before filming started. They knew how important it is. The fact that she is riding the subway, physically going somewhere, suggests that she is ‘moving on’. She is. However, her demeanour shows us that she is a changed woman because of Tyler. And the ghostly image of her mother means that her mother’s spirit is still with her, that she is still connected to her.

When Tyler leaves Ally that last morning, they are both smiling, both have spoken the crucial words, their happiness trailing in his wake as he leaves, and we are content. Let it end there. But it does not. Tyler goes on to sit at his father’s desk to complete his contentment. His smile is so tranquil. We want that for him. All is well. But it is not. And when we finally know it is not, and Ally knows it is not, it ends. But it does not. Until the same serene smile is on Ally’s face, it will not end. She needs to sit on that subway to retrieve some measure of acceptance. And we want that for her. All is not well, not without Tyler. Not ever. But it is the end. And we have seen the lovers smile. And we want that for them.


Misty said...

beautiful article,written so brilliant!Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this article thankyou.Emile plays Ally beautifully she s very believable as the strong independant inteligent girl but very loving and caring.She said in an interview that it was easy acting with Rob very comfortable and she felt more that she reacts to him than acts with him which comes accross in the film. I didnt feel comfortable with the comment "he s like a predater" but I re looked at it and it does look that way visualay he towers over her physically, but the word implies hes trying to seduce her. again in this seen it shows how much respect for her and the relationship this is the second time shes stayed over they are attracted to each other but he doesnt try to take advantage he knows this relationship is special she s special again there is no intent from him to push the relationship he prepares his bed in the front room he respects her he offers her food hes been affectionate and caring the first time hes just trying to impress her, he doesnt see her as a vicim or a weak person she can see again hes genuine about her, I felt the comment about Aiden was more matter of fact than suggestive ,its the look she gives him I felt is her saying she trusts him and wants a relationship with him, she wants to move the relationship forward he hesitates because he wants to be sure its what she wants.This is the first time either of them have fallen in love and that shows in the way they look at each other the first time they make love. The director said he wanted more of those sceens and he wasnt allowed to show her leg which im glad of because I feel the importance of that moment where they realise theyve really connected emotionaly may not have been as powerful.Emile was perfect for Ally and she brought the character to life beautifully shes a very strong actor

Anonymous said...

He mentions Aiden and then that he will be staying on the couch if she needs him.She s responding more to this than the comment about Aiden I think.

InstantKarmaGirl said...

You always have beautiful thoughts.

This movie wounds me in powerful ways.

solas said...

Well done, Jesse!
I saw the 2 of them as if in a dance, a ritual of approach, as the old bow and curtsy of former times had been reinterpreted for them, but rather than a dance of 2 equal lovers, the shadow of the start of their relationship was within Tyler, like a man of former times with a secret even as he carefully steps his reel.

Anonymous said...

can not wait for this movie played in Indonesia.. :)

love films

jessegirl said...

To Anonymous (Feb. 11):
It is interesting how differently his approach in that scene can be interpreted and I think there is something to all our views. Solas says a dance and I emphasize the predator (knowing how wounded and tentative Tyler is and how strong Ally is), and you emphasize Tyler's respect for her and he "hesitates because he wants to be sure its what she wants". Good points. I personally think it's a bit of all three, but Tyler is dangerously seductive and that's what I was trying to get across.

WhyIstheRumAlwaysGone said...

A beautiful article jessegirl, as always. Finally I find time to read it!! It's very complete and covers almost all the psychological aspects of Tyler and Ally, and actually I think it goes beyond the mere "lover" aspect. It's an in-depth character study, really good.
It's very interesting to see how we differ in the famous scene where Tyler approaches Ally. I'm very interested in your interpretation of it, but although you and I we have talked again and gain about the film, I don't see it at all like you. I see it maybe more like Solas does, as a seduction dance or ritual. I would even push it further and not say like Solas that they are equals, but that Ally is the one leading the dance. She's the one who comes to fetch Tyler in the living-romm, without bothering to really dress - I think she's wearing his blue sweater, far too large for her. She's letting him do all the work, never uttering a word, but directing him through her clear, unflinching gaze. He's the one who hesitates, tries to speak, and I see his attitude as unsure, not as a predator's. He might be like that with toothbrush girls but not with her. She's stronger than him, even though she's wounded and fragile at that moment, in body and mind.
I even thought when I saw the scene, when he's so slow and walking with his head bent down - taht he looked defeated, answering to her call, aware that sex with Ally would have consequences but unable to resist her silent call. And aware that she was fragile, and feeling guilty because of his untold lies... Yes, the more I think of it, the more I see her as the mistress of the dance, pulling him to her with an invisible thread.
That however is my own personal take on it, and I suppose we may all of us look differently at this very emotional scene.
I think I remember that in the original script Ally came for him in a much more direct, bolder way and that Fetters described her as dominating him (physically) a bit in their lovemaking, till he finally took control. But I would need to check that and I'm too lazy to look for it just now.
Whatever our interpration, it's fascinating to see all our different reactions here.
Thank you jesse for this beautiful article with all its details and research!

jessegirl said...

And yours is a fantastic comment, Rum. I actually concede that Anonymous, Solas and you are probably more right about that slow approach Tyler made, which was extremely erotic to me.
“She’s letting him do all the work, never uttering a word, but directing him through her clear, unflinching gaze. He's the one who hesitates, tries to speak, and I see his attitude as unsure, not as a predator's.” Yes, she is, and he is. ‘Unflinching gaze’. I saw him pinning her with his look, funny, eh? I saw that devastatingly dangerous seducer. The one who has seduced a bunch of other women, and who Ally, for all her strength, has been resisting for a while and finally caves. Ally IS strong, stronger than Tyler in some ways, but she is also a young woman falling in love and is a bit entranced with that boy. She isn’t only strong; she is yielding female too. Complex. But all of what you say is true and I’m betting Rob, Allen and Will acted, directed and wrote it that way, not mine.

So, while I do put a lot of thought into these pieces, I know I usually present one view predominantly, and sometimes only one, -as in Tyler’s walk. And thanks for saying it covers so much. Actually, when we talk about it like this, I know the article, all the articles, just scratch the surface of this extraordinary film. I just love our discourse about these things, for, while I love it when people love my articles—I’m only human—I love it when intelligent people like you respond with their own brilliant ideas. This movie is so rich and ripe for all of that. So, thanks so much!

jessegirl said...

Misty, if you're around, thanks for the supportive comments you always make. *hugs*

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