Hey again to all readers! Welcome to my website if this is your first time reading a review or welcome BACK to those who have consistently checked in over the course of this year! Regardless, ALL visitors are appreciated! So, for today’s second film review, I had to turn to the New Release section of cable’s On Demand station in order to view the newest indie offering I had on my list, “Before I Disappear”.
SEE THE TRAILER HERE
Brought to us by first-time major film director Shawn Christensen, who wrote the screenplay AND stars IN it as well, the story takes us to New York City and into the life of a truly down-and-out loser, Richie (Christensen), who, after writing a letter to a whom we assume initially is a lost love, Vista (Isabelle McNally), decides it’s time to rid the world of his presence and that nothing will stop him. We see a flashback to a nightclub where he apparently has worked as a cleaning man and, having discovered something not so pleasant, is asked to “keep it hush hush” by the club’s boss, Bill (Ron Pearlman). So, things seem to be ending…until the phone rings, distracting Richie from his “task”. It is a desperate call from his estranged sister, Maggie (Emmy Rossum), asking a favor of him….to pick up her daughter Sophia (Fatima Ptacek) from school. In a daze, he agrees to do this. He and Sophia do NOT hit it off, as she is a smart, but willful, straight-forward, and demanding young girl while Richie is mostly oblivious to much of the reality around him at the time, simply trying to do what he was told and be done with it. Upon ultimately reaching Maggie’s posh apartment building, they separate and Richie decides to go somewhere ELSE to end things. ANOTHER phone call interrupts his attempt as we find Richie owes money to several people. Thinking the caller is actually IN his building to get him, Richie goes to confront him in the middle of a hallway party, only to get ANOTHER call, this time from Sophia advising her Mom never came home. Richie goes to the apartment, confronting a strangely-behaving woman (Stephanie Kurtzuba) in the hallway who summarily runs away. Ultimately the phone rings and it’s Maggie, whom we find has gotten herself into a serious bind. Upon describing the woman he saw, Maggie implores Richie to take Sophia to HIS apartment for safety, and thus begins a whirlwind adventure through the streets of New York via shady dwelling places and a bowling alley/nightclub run by another of Richie’s “employers”, Gideon (Paul Wesley), whom we find has a certain connection to earlier events Richie is aware of. But, as circumstances continue to develop and secrets are revealed along the journey, Richie and Sophia form an unexpected bond that causes Richie to have to re-learn the importance again of life, family, caring for another other than himself, and even simply saying “I love you”. Further details would constitute spoilers and as we all know by now…that is NOT what I am about in my synopses.
I know I keep saying it…and I will unapologetically say it AGAIN…as a whole, I absolutely LOVE indie/small budget films, as they CONTINUE to rely on their characters and story-telling to convey the intent of the film’s themes. This movie is NO exception to that rule. Possessing an unexpectedly deft combination of humor and heart-felt drama, we are pulled in by Richie’s initial plight in life (or lack of one) but then watch as this new (and initially unwanted) hassle of having to take care of and watch over his niece transforms his ENTIRE outlook on things. And this is done very feasibly in my opinion. Christensen plays Richie perfectly through these changes in behavior, so well in fact, you’re absolutely rooting for the guy. And honestly, so MUCH of that believability comes FROM Sophia, whose played touchingly well by Ptacek. She just bring such a grounded approach to the role, that I could not HELP but be pleasantly amazed by the performance. The growing dynamic with the two is just SO genuine and tangible, especially once that place is reached where Richie AND Sophia realize what HAS formed between them and they embrace it wholeheartedly. Rossum is one of my overall favorite actresses, and she plays Maggie with a seasoned mix of frustration and anger at her brother, a sadness and despair of realizing mistakes she’s just made, and coming to terms WITH her and Richie’s relationship, why it fell apart, and what it might take to make it better, while THAN becoming aware that the newly formed bond between Richie and Sophia was POSITIVE for her child. Pearlman and Wesley each play their roles well enough, not really being any kind of stretch for either, given dramatic turns in their respective and well-known characters on “Sons of Anarchy” and “The Vampire Diaries” respectively. Visually, the film briskly takes us through the slightly seedier sides of New York, without going overboard with it. There are several outbursts of language, but this time, it didn’t bother me as much as other films. Here, your heart is taken away by the wonder of a friendship you would NOT have thought would work at ALL, much less affect BOTH character’s lives so deeply. It was enough emotional potency for me to tear up, so take that for what it’s worth folks. A solid effort and I will say, the film DOES have a SUPERB ending given everything that unfolds that adds that final, emotional punch. An effective, real, human story that I would hope speaks to all of us in SOME way about the importance of those we have in our lives and how we stay connected, or NEED to.
As always, this is all for YOUR consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!