Remember me

Remember Me


Whether we choose to admit it or not, we all hold tight to a secret hope. Each and every one of us wants to be remembered. We want to wipe away time and distance as easily as a chalkboard. We want to have our love endure. and what offers comfort when we cannot be there to do so.

Young or old, rich or poor. It can be both a comfort and a fear- since it is completely out of our hands.

COCO is about the Rivera family. The story goes that the matriarch was abandoned by a musician and left to fend for herself and her baby daughter Coco. Now, many years later, the Rivera family is staunchly anti-music (now they make shoes instead).

The film is set on Dio de Muertos (“The Day of The Dead”), and finds the youngest member of the family – Miguel – wanting to enter a talent show. Miguel has dreams of following in the footsteps of his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz, and feels this is his best opportunity to be discovered. However, when his grandmother finds out about his plans, she destroys his guitar and expressly forbids him from playing. Miguel, ever the rebel, runs away to play anyway.

When he happens past his family’s ofrenda (a shrine to those already deceased), he notices something special about the image of the matriarch, Imelda. The rebel musician – whose face has been torn away – seems to be holding a guitar similar to that of de la Cruz. Miguel deduces that he must be a descendant of the musical legend, and taking the photo with him sneaks into the icon’s tomb. In stealing the guitar from the tomb, Miguel suddenly becomes invisible to the living…but very much in sight to the dead.

Miguel has crossed over to the other side – to The Land of The Dead – and now must find a way back. Happily, his deceased aunts and uncles are happy to help him home. If, they counter, he puts the photo back on the ofrenda so Imelda can cross over (no ofrenda, no getting out of the land of the dead). However, Imelda makes the condition that if Miguel goes back, he needs to adhere to the family rules – no music.

Miguel disobeys, and traipses about through the land of the dead in search of de la Cruz. His thinking is that if he too is related, he can send him back without condition. His quest brings him across a soul named Hector – a hapless soul who claims to have once played with de la Cruz. He offers to bring Miguel to the musical icon in exchange for getting his image put on an ofrenda somewhere.

He is in danger of being forgotten, and the Land of the Dead is not there for the forgotten.

So it goes that Miguel seeks to defy his family, and build his own legacy…


coco and miguel


I’d be remiss if I didn’t begin with COCO’s belief in music.

We have arrived at a point where music is ubiquitous – it’s at the swipe of a finger, living in our pockets, strictly adhering to the tastes of listeners. It almost seems comic to suggest that music, for many, can still be deeply personal. How can something so omnipresent be personal. And yet, for many, that is the reality. Music can be both deeply upsetting, or a true comfort. It can reach deep into our memory and our heart and stir emotions we’d long forgotten were even there.

That reach goes to painful places for Mama Immelda and Abuelita ELena. That reach finds ambitious places inside of Miguel. As for Coco…well…it goes somewhere I dare not discuss, only that it will ring true for many who come to this story.

Pixar films have long fixated on the family dynamic, paying close attention to the push-and-pull between parents and children. Now, for the first time, it feels like we climb higher into that family tree. We are welcomed into a culture that values every drop of blood connection that family offers. The love , protection, encouragement, and worry that comes with being family are rendered in vivd colours and splashed across the screen. We are surrounded with not only parents and children, but tios, tias, abuelitos, abuelitas, and many more. Sure it’s confusing and chaotic, as all families are, but what Miguel learns about these people is that they want nothing more than his happiness in life.

They may not spend much time with each-other face-to-face, but when you share a legacy, that doesn’t matter.

What matters is honour and memory; that someone out there carries on the family traditions and serves as a proxy to the living world. It allows the departed to know that they mattered to just one person, the very least that anyone could truly hope for. Some of us, will make a deep impact in our lives and be remembered by many. But most of us, will only matter to a few. After those few are gone, what then? Is it so much to ask that those few pass on our story to another few? In so doing, our story is honoured and remembered, and we can rest easy knowing we mattered.

Seeing this intimate tradition illustrated so vividly in COCO is moving.

It renders in lush colours the rich tradition of latino families honouring those who have passed from this life, and holds tight to the hope that they come back once a year to look in on those who remain. It underlines the importance of balancing respect for the family with blazing a trail of ones own. These connections and traditions are seldom explored on a scale quite this grand. At a time when we all want to stay in our own safe little boxes, it feels like an act of grace to be welcomed into such an intimate story.

In real life, people like the characters we see in COCO are having doors slammed, and walls built. It’s deeply humbling to be offered a seat at the table for a story of familial love. We are not worthy – and we’d do well to remember them.



Matineescore: ★ ★ ★ 1/2 out of ★ ★ ★ ★
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