Director: Shawn Christensen
Rating: Unrated (contains strong language and disturbing images.)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Date: November 28, 2014
Fuzzy Logic Pictures, Wigwam Films, Strongman and IFC Films.
Written by: Shawn Christensen, adapted from the short film “Curfew”, written by Shawn Christensen.
Before I Disappear is the feature-length incarnation of Shawn Christensen‘s Oscar-winning short film Curfew, which put the first-time filmmaker on the map in 2012. Fleshing out a 19-minute short into a 98 minute full-length film is an interesting next step and Christensen is writer/director/editor/ and lead actor in this somber tale which depicts a suicidal man forced to take in a niece he doesn’t know when his sister gets into trouble.
Curfew was melancholic and strewn across a bleakly colored palette but Christensen infused his short story with dark humor and quirky asides that made the film a wonderful curiosity. Before I Disappear recycles many of those same moments but the uniqueness is drowned out with a film that plays like Exhibit A to the case people often make regarding independent films.
Essentially, Christensen’s Richie awakens to a phone call in a bathtub of reddened water after just having slashed his wrists. He cut deep enough to get a sense of the experience but his attempt is as lackluster as his take on the world. The phone call from Maggie (Emmy Rossum) acknowledges that they haven’t spoke in a long time, but she is in trouble and has no one to pick up her daughter Sophia (Fatima Ptacek). The awkwardness between Richie and Sophia is exacerbated by the 11-year-old seeing right through Richie’s arrival and being insanely smart and worldly. Initially, Maggie’s unavailability for her daughter is a shock to her senses and Richie simply does the best he can, struggling to keep up with the wit and wonder his niece imbibes upon him,
Through a misguided world of odd jobs, shady bosses, and questionable moral decisions, Richie wanders through a discomforting conversation with his boss Gideon (Paul Wesley), distraught over the disappearance of his girlfriend, gone with seemingly no trace. This hits Richie close to home, as his girlfriend, Vista (Isabelle McNally), has also seemingly vanished from thin air. Connecting to the loneliness all around her, Sophia warms ever so slightly to Richie and recognizes that he is in trouble, placing his indulgence for self-harm front and center in their relationship.
What Before I Disappear tries to do and what it ultimately becomes are too cavernous to marry together. Moments of imagination and goofiness never rest comfortably next to serious melodramatic moments and scenes. The scenes involving Richie dealing with his two immature and violent bosses (Ron Perlman shows up as another boss Richie deals with), feel imported from a darker, more downward spiral-like story. For those who watched Curfew and then see this, you realize that Christensen was driven to see his story through to a fully realized conclusion, bringing to life his thoughts and his visions beyond the original 19 minutes spent with this story.
Should he have? I like having Shawn Christensen making movies, but have run the course with Richie and Sophia and the dissident noise surrounding these folks. I welcome his next projects but worry that he failed to see the gaps in his extending his story; gaps he filled with cliched melodramatic subplots that really bring nothing to the central story of a man, feeling lost and alone, forced to reconnect with family he had personally and reciprocally written off.
Before I Disappear has a sour mix of drama and dark comedy, but isn’t so bad that it snuffs out any goodwill generated from Christensen’s Oscar-winning 2012 short film. The problem here is that this is AN INDIE MOVIE and the promise and charm of Curfew is cannibalized by its grown up persona. Onward and upward for Shawn Christensen, but after what we had two years ago, Before I Disappear is a major disappointment.
SHOULD I SEE IT?
- If you are one of the few who caught up to Curfew, you will pleased to see that the story grew into a feature-length film.
- Shawn Christensen is a talented storyteller, especially with some visual and surreal quirks he employs in his storytelling.
- While Christensen may not be the best of actors, both Fatima Ptacek and Emmy Rossum have some great moments in the film.
- This is a visual portfolio as to why lots of people claim they hate indie films.
- Meanders around and the subplots are just wandering, never all that interesting, and rather unbelievable in the scheme of things.
- Sadly and bluntly, this should have stayed a short film.