Cast: J.K. Simmons, Sebastian Stan, Maika Monroe, Mandy Moore
Director: Michelle Schumacher
While I’ve written dozens of reviews of films that have premiered at various Sundance Film Festivals over the years, I don’t believe I’ve ever written one that first premiered at the Raindance Film Festival. With that in mind, I recognize that a film like I’m Not Here won’t be breaking any box office records anytime soon, but it still provides a certain level of quality that shows there was a vision and inspiration for this project. Not without its flaws, I’m Not Here does a solid job of showcasing that the traumas of our past shape who we are today, even if the delivery of that message is somewhat jumbled and unorganized.
The film follows Steve (Simmons), a lonely, elderly man who lives on his own in squalor and is thinking about killing himself to finally end his misery. As he puts the gun to his head, he looks back on his life and reflects on his experiences that got him to where he is today. From the divorce and breakdown of his parents marriage, to his struggles with alcohol as a young adult (Stan), and the strain that puts on his marriage with his wife Karen (Monroe), Steve has to come to terms with his life and decide whether or not he can get past his feelings or if these thoughts will be his last. The decision to switch between three portions of Steve’s life ends up becoming the most effective yet distracting portion of the film. The ability to show the audience exactly what Steve went through as a child and how the environment our parents create for us also creates our insecurities and shortcomings. As time passes, we as people need to find a way to deal with these issues and the way we do ends up dictating more of our lives than the foundation themselves. The performances of Simmons and Stan really display this agony as we see these consequences come full circle for Steve and in a sense both of them show us a different angle of grief and tragedy. With that in mind, I don’t think the film ever gives us a real concrete solution to these issues and that’s where the film’s struggles mainly exist. It shows all of these stages of life where Steve is struggling, but it doesn’t necessarily show the depth needed from elderly Steve to really deliver on that premise. I don’t believe Simmons has any dialogue in this film, so it makes it tough to drive the point home when his performance is 100% physical. The constant switch between these stages of life while important and effective can sometimes be distracting and underdeveloped meaning we never get a fully clear picture of what Schumacher is trying to tell us. For a smaller-budget film with a solid enough cast, I’m Not Here accomplishes most of what it sets out to do and provides a foundation to take a deeper look into introspective and difficult topics in a short 81 minute runtime.
Overall, if I’m Not Here had a more fleshed out story and the budget to help it get a wider release, I think there would’ve been a real chance we get a more precise and concrete understanding of the struggles of childhood traumas and how they impact us for the rest of our lives. Considering how the major players are used in this film, there was definitely an opportunity for this movie to develop itself and give us the full display that a topic like this could use. I’m curious what happens to Schumacher’s career, but based on this I think she should have the chance to do something larger in the future.
Overall Score: 5/10