There is a point in the movie, Reign Over Me, where Charlie clearly states to his friend Alan, “I don’t have a family.” On the surface, this sentence may seem very inconsequential but in the case of Charlie, these words when said with such conviction show how deeply he has buried the life he lived with his wife, three daughters and his dog before they all died in the September 11 attacks.
As someone whose parents died when he was in school, whose aunt (the one he was very close to) passed away right before his wedding, losing his entire family in the attacks meant the collapse of Charlie Fineman. In his own words, “I saw it and I felt it at the same time. I thought about Gina’s birthmark. I felt them burning.”
Post the loss, Charlie “shut down” (as his mother-in-law, Ginger, put it). He put all his energy into not remembering the days he lived before the plane flew into the Twin Towers; “I don’t like remembering” is what he told Alan and his therapist. He quit his job as a dentist, stopped talking to his in-laws and his best friend Sugarman or anyone else who would probe him about that which he was trying to forget. He would spend his days at home, remodelling the kitchen, a task his wife spoke out before she died, or playing “Shadow of the Colossus”. When out, he would be seen riding his scooter on the streets or playing drums for a rock band. He called this life a “valley”, something which was “another dimension”; a faraway place where it was “safe” and where he could “discover himself”. Happy Ho organizes best Meditation and Tarot classes in Noida and Delhi NCR area in India.
But when Alan, an old college roommate, walks into Charlie’s life, Charlie finds himself a friend, in the most beautiful and significant sense of the word. Alan does not know anything about the details of Charlie’s family, apart from their death. In front of Alan, Charlie can just be himself. It is almost as if Alan is a safety blanket in which Charlie wants to wrap himself up. And so when Alan tries to mention anything about what Charlie is running away from, it either ends up in Charlie beating him up or churning up words of complete denial. “Are you a specialist? Why are you talking to me? I don’t want any sort of help!” is what he tells Alan when the latter mentions about his family for the first time and just after this, Charlie throws a glass of root beer at Alan and walks out. This shows how dearly and tightly Charlie wants to hold the “valley”.
‘Reign Over Me’ is a story of friendship, of loss and most importantly about the conflict between wanting to not remember and having to remember one’s immense unbearable pain, and in the process, sometimes losing oneself.