Before I disappear – An impressive debut film with depth to spare
Written and directed by: Shawn Christensen
Richie (Christensen) is the epitome of a downtrodden soul. He has been through life’s wringer, to the point where he wants out of life altogether. Unfortunately for Richie, in the middle of his attempt at shuffling off the mortal coil, he gets a phone call from his long lost big sister Maggie (Rossum). Maggie is in the middle of a personal crisis, and pleads with Richie to pick up her daughter Sophia (Ptacek) from school and watch after her until she can get there.
Through a series of mishaps and strange circumstances, Richie and Sophia end up on an all night adventure through the city. Though they do not get along so well at first, they end up learning valuable lessons from each other along the way. Richie has a soul in need of saving, and it just might be bonding with his intelligent yet lonely niece that does it.
I am just going to come right out and say I loved this movie. It is everything I look for in a cinematic experience. It is well directed, well acted, beautifully shot, I cared about the characters, and the story was at once emotionally powerful and thought provoking. This is the kind of film I recommend to all of my friends and family. It tells an important story without ever feeling contrived, and that is a difficult task. There were many opportunities for things to become tacky and melodramatic, but they never do. From beginning to end… I cared. That is what I crave from movies. I want to feel something for the people on screen and what they are going through. “Disappear” gave me exactly that.
Not only does Christensen seem to be a very capable director, but he also shines in the lead role of an awkward, sad man who is (unbeknownst to himself) in search of a spark. Opposite him, Fatima Ptacek is absolutely perfect as a child advanced well beyond her years that feels alienated from everyone other than her mother. The two of them pack up the weight of this heavy film and carry it, seemingly with ease, to a poignant ending.
Rossum, Paul Wesley, and old man Perlman all get their crack at highly intense, emotional scenes with Christensen. And, they each hit home runs, and succeed at bringing to life believable, interesting characters in the background of the film. This is especially true in the scene between Maggie and Richie, in which they lay all of their cards on the table and discuss (through tears) why they have lost track of their once unbreakable brother/sister bond.
“Before I disappear” was the perfect way for Christensen to showcase his abilities as a writer, director, and an actor. It won the audience award at SXSW, and it is easy to see why. I look forward to more from both him, and his talented young co-star Ptacek. Bravo!