Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your
For they have been from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!
For there is no enduring remembrance of the wise or of fools, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How can the wise die just like fools? So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me; for all is vanity and a chasing after wind.
…Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19b
Remembrance is an important theme in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, and it is also in di rector Allen Coulter’s film, most of which is set in 2001. The script by Will Fetters, tells the story of two young adults who share little in common except a terrible tragedy in each of their lives from which neither has fully recovered. My ears picked up when, near the beginning of the film, Tyler quotes Gandhi as saying, “Most of what we do will be insignificant, but it is important that we do it.” Hmm, in my book anyone acquainted with the teachings of the great Indian leader must be an interesting and admirable person.
The film is book-ended by two scenes on a subway platform. The first is of a mother and her young daughter waiting for the train to arrive. A gang robs her, and then, as they board the train, one of them turns and shoots her. Jump to the time when the girl Ally Craig (Emilie de Ravin) has grown up, raised by her police sergeant father (Chris Cooper). Her relationship with him is shaky, he never having really recovered from his wife’s death. He is far more protective of her than is good for either of them.
Tyler (Robert Pattinson), approaching his 22nd birthday, also has a stormy relationship with his career-obsessed father (Pierce Brosnan), divorced from his mother. Disturbed over the loss of his brother years earlier, Tyler’s happiest moments are spent with his little sister Caroline (Ruby Jerins), a gifted artist raised by his mother (Lena Olin).
Late one night while out with best friend and roommate Aiden (Tate Ellington), Tyler comes to the aid of a person being harassed. A fight erupts, and the police are summoned. When the cops arrive, Tyler is cuffed along with the attackers, and during the exchange with the officer in charge, he is roughed up. The injustice of this upsets him, and so later when Aiden learns that fellow student Ally is the police officer’s daughter, he agrees to his roommate’s suggestion that he win her love in order to get back at her father. As you can imagine, their relation, begun with the wrong motivation, develops in an unexpected direction, with results painful to all concerned.
The significance of the title you will learn only at the end of the film, and also how one “insignificant life” can indeed impact others for the good. One of those impacts we see in the second subway platform scene that concludes the film. This is a quiet, sometimes slow moving film that rewards those who stay with it. Those of us with seemingly uneventful lives would do well to reflect on it in the company of other ordinary folks who might tend to think that they have little to contribute to the world. Will we really leave anything behind worth remembering, or do our “insignificant” acts add up to something after all, something worth remembering?
Spoilers below, especially in the last two questions.
1. How does the opening scene show the cruel randomness of life? How is it important to have a framework of belief great enough to include this?
2. Note the remark in James 4:14, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Compare this with the observation in the Ecclesiastes passage above. How does this film agree with and diverge from the latter’s :all is vanity” ?
3. Do any of the characters seem to possess any measure of religious faith? What is it that seems to keep Tyler going, despite his grief and resentment toward his father?
4. What changes his view of his father? How might the father have better expressed his feelings for his son?
5. Were you surprised by Tyler’s fate? How is his story illustrative of what the world lost on that fateful day?
6. How does the closing scene shed light on the film’s title? How is Tyler well worth remembering?