By Michael Avila
Special to DNAinfo
(Editor's Note: The following story contains spoilers about the plot of the new movie "Remember Me.")
MANHATTAN — The use of 9/11 as a plot device in Robert Pattinson’s new movie “Remember Me” may not go over well with many Manhattan residents.
Pattinson, of “Twilight” fame, stars as Tyler, an aimless 21-year-old New Yorker struggling with personal tragedy and family dysfunction.
Near the end of the film, Tyler finds himself in his father’s office in lower Manhattan, content that he has reached an uneasy but gratifying truce with his demanding dad.
“It’s kind of like the perfect happy ending,” Pattinson said during an interview this past weekend to promote the film, which opens March 12. “And you’re so invested in the characters, and then suddenly this train hits you at the end.”
The "train" he is referring to comes as Tyler looks out at the morning sky. As the camera pulls out, it reveals that Tyler is staring out of a window on one of the upper floors of one of the World Trade Center buildings on Sept. 11, 2001.
It’s a stunning shot, an indelible image that will stay with audiences long after they have left the theater. For many people in the New York area who witnessed the attacks up close, it may be too much to handle, even more than eight years later.
While there have been films made about 9/11, most notably “United 93” and “World Trade Center,” they have primarily been based on actual events and real people. “Remember Me” is the first major motion picture to use the terror attacks as a key plot point in a fictional story.
Summit Entertainment, the studio behind the film, isn’t advertising the connection to Sept. 11 in pre-release publicity. And to be fair, the film is not about 9/11. It’s an intimate story about two wayward 20-somethings trying to connect and figure out the lives that lie ahead of them, while trying to come to terms with personal loss.
The movie’s principal actors defended the incorporation of the sensitive subject matter, saying it serves as an appropriate companion piece to the overall message.
“This film isn’t based around it, it’s set in 2001 for many reasons,” said Australian co-star Emilie de Ravin, who plays Pattinson’s love interest, Ally. “The writer, Will Fetters…that year he wanted to portray, was sort of one of the last years of innocence, in a way, in America.”
Academy Award-winner Chris Cooper, who plays de Ravin’s father in the film, echoes those sentiments. “I think there’s a theme of loss that runs through [the film]. “
Still, the 9/11 connection will no doubt have people asking if it's too soon to have the most tragic event in American history used as a storytelling element.
Pattinson, who attended the movie's New York premier Monday night, said those concerns crossed his mind as well.
“Definitely, I was a bit concerned,” said Pattinson. “When I first read it, I was sort of [caught off-guard]. I really hadn’t read another script with 9/11 mentioned in it…”
Cooper, who lived in Hell's Kitchen for 20 years, said he didn’t sign on to do the movie until he received assurances from the filmmakers that they would treat the 9/11 aspect of the film properly.
“I was a little concerned about how tastefully they would handle it,” he admitted. “And they went beyond my expectations.”
De Ravin, who stars in the TV hit “Lost,” agreed.
“I think it’s extremely tastefully done and respectful.”
Outside of the moment where Tyler is seen looking out the window, the Twin Towers are never shown. The only signs given that it is Sept. 11 come in the form of a teacher writing the day’s date on a chalkboard, and the other key characters in the movie reacting to the attacks. One character gets out of his car to look up into the sky, others rush to their rooftops to see it all unfold.
Pattinson believes the sequence justifies the use of 9/11 as part of the story.
“It grounded [the movie] in reality in a lot of ways which made it kind of much more powerful,” Pattinson told DNAinfo.
“I don’t know why it felt so real. I just felt there was a reason behind making it.”
Nearly a decade later, the subject of Sept. 11 remains an emotional scar not yet fully healed, especially in New York City. That is why, as de Ravin pointed out, “Remember Me” is likely to spark strong responses about its inclusion of 9/11.
“Everyone’s going to have an opinion on that, in every different way, too,” she said. “Because everyone has their own experience and feelings about that.”