Raindance Film Festival: I’m Not Here

I'm Not Here
I’m Not Here
Directed by Michelle Schumacher
Starring J.K. Simmons, Sebastian Stan, Maika Monroe, Mandy Moore, Max Greenfield and Iain Armitage
Screening at Raindance September 21st, 26th, 2017

by Joanna Orland

Steve is tormented by memories of his past. The demons that haunt him have driven him to the brink of suicide, as he wallows in his life’s trauma, mistakes and regrets. Ones he so desperately wishes he could fix.

We find present day Steve crying in emotional turmoil with a gun to his head. The film tells his story from three points in his life; present day played by J.K. Simmons, middle age by Sebastian Stan, and childhood by Iain Armitage, who has really made his mark this year in a variety of big productions (Big Little Lies, Our Souls at Night, Young Sheldon).

In childhood, his parents (Mandy Moore, Max Greenfield) have a troubled marriage, his father a drinking problem. It is at this young tender age that Steve tries his first drink, with alcoholism being an issue he has battled his whole life. His parents bitterly divorce and the events which unfold traumatize their young son.

Middle aged Steve continues tradition as he battles alcoholism, fighting to keep his marriage to Karen (Monroe) together, while being a good father to their young son. Steve has many regrets from this time in his life, these being the hardest to resolve. They haunt him and crossover into his present day.

A character study of Steve, along with an exploration of regret, I’m Not Here features an excellent cast. The three Steves compliment each other nicely, and it’s remarkable how easily Sebastian Stan can pass for a younger J.K. Simmons. Iain Armitage is currently Hollywood’s hardest working child actor, and displays why in his performance here.

The cast is rounded out nicely with Mandy Moore who has really mastered the matriarchal role from her current stint on This Is Us, and continues to thrive in the role here, albeit in a minor part. Max Greenfield plays against type in his most adult, non-millennial role to date. Maika Monroe is likable as Karen, although in some scenes with the actor playing her son, she has a nervousness about her with the child that makes it obvious that he’s not really hers. Alas, they are a solidly interesting cast, one more heavyweight than the film they’re in.

Even with such strong actors, the film suffers from a sappy melodrama. Nevermind the bizarre ending and sci-fi element that feels completely out of place amongst it. It feels amateurishly put together in spite of a highly experienced cast, and it is no surprise to learn that director Michelle Schumacher is married to the film’s star J.K. Simmons – I’m Not Here does have the feel of a ‘mom-and-pop’ movie, in spite of its dark subject matter.

There is much potential in I’m Not Here, even though it misses the mark. The aforementioned cast, the three different time periods the story spans across, and the themes throughout are all interesting material to work with. Somehow they don’t leave much of an impact when strung together, merely a glimpse into a man’s life rather than an empathetic exploration.


One Response to “Raindance Film Festival: I’m Not Here”

  1. Julia says:

    You are apparently the only one that was there that didn’t love this film. I’m a huge Sebastian Stan fan and have seen a lot of comments from people that were there (and other reviews) and everyone loved it. Except you.

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