** Spoiler Alert ... Sort Of **
I was on the fence about watching this one for some time. Mind you, I've only seen Robert Pattinson in a handful of films, and those were mostly in the "Twilight" franchise. I loved him as Cedric Diggory in "Goblet of Fire," and pretty much adamantly did not love him as Edward in the "Twilight" movies. He always looked so uncomfortable in his own skin that it was uncomfortable just to watch him.
So there you go. I spent a few years not watching this movie. Headslap.
It was not what I expected, and in the best possible way. I think the less you know about this movie before watching it, the better. Even the trailer shows only a snippet of the basic plot: a troubled young man, the girl he falls for, and all the family snafus involved with a "you don't understand me and you don't even want to" kind of parent-child relationship. My friend calls this sort of dynamic "Dysfunction Junction." It's a study in emotional damage, and how its effects ripple through family and friends. As much as I hated him as Edward in the "Twilight" franchise, and as wrong for that part as I felt he was, he was exactly right in this movie. I don't know if that's because of directing, or Pattinson's own comfort level on this project, or what, but whatever it was, it worked. I was also pleased to see Emilie de Ravin, who plays Belle on ABC's "Once Upon a Time."
The first half or so of the movie is, I'll admit it, not exciting. The romance is forced, first by the prodding of main character Tyler's roommate, and then just plain overall, by the speed at which the script pushes Tyler and Ally together. If I were either of these two characters, I would have told the other to get lost ... but I decided to keep watching.
Then, at some point, that first layer peels away, and emotionally, the film is right where it should be: a look into the lives of two young people weighted down by family tragedy, and trying to escape it. Not only do Tyler and Ally struggle with the fallout from their own personal crises, they are caught in the mire of how their own families have dealt with the same issues. What works about this is that the characters are so average. Everyone has some kind of damage, and if these two can overcome it, there might be hope for the rest of us. The film is less about romance than about finding ways to heal.
There is a scene two-thirds in where Tyler has finally had enough, and confronts his estranged father over the way he seems to have abandoned his kids. It's a bit unrealistic in its extremity, but it is powerful, and Pattinson holds his own against Pierce Brosnan in an admirable way that had me nodding, thinking, "This is good."
From that point, the romance is only one flavor in the messy soup of family angst, and it works, and it's riveting. The last third of the movie made me glad I'd spent the money on the rental. Everything boils over, and suddenly, all the Band-Aids these people have slapped over their wounds are just so much bullshit. It's wonderful to watch how they deal when all of that is stripped away.
I won't spoil the last twelve minutes for you, but I will tell you, it surprised me. I was expecting something, but not that, and it was a masterful example of misdirection on the writer's part. Bravo to Will Fetters, the screenwriter, for planting those hints that led me down the wrong path, not only in making this a romance that's not about the romance, but for that last several minutes of the film. Totally worth watching if you're a writer, yourself.
SCORE: Four of five stars