This morning (well, morning and early afternoon) consisted of a pair of films which delve into attempts to cope with some sort of tragedy and depression. Before I Disappear draws its title from a main character who is seeking to tie up the last couple loose ends in his, to be honest, pretty miserable life before he kills himself, something he tries to do more than once over the course of the movie, while The Wilderness of James centers on a depressive teenager whose father has recently died. SXSW is so much fun, everybody!
All jokes aside, Before I Disappear was one probably the second best movie I’ve seen so far at SXSW, trailing only The Grand Budapest Hotel, which perhaps seems like an unfair comparison until you realize the Oscar count for the directors is Shawn Christensen 1, Wes Anderson 0. (Not that Oscars are the be-all-end-all of quality, of course, but funny nonetheless.) Christensen won the Oscar for live action short in 2013 with “Curfew,” a film which has now been expanded into the feature-length Before I Disappear. I never saw the short, but I have to imagine that there was a ton of stuff added because this is a very dense movie. Dense to a fault at times, with a responsibility to more storylines that it can elegantly close off, but this density is also what adds so much important character to the world. Christensen plays the lead in both Curfew and Before I Disappear, and since this the two are so directly tied to one another, it’s really cool that he got Curfew co-star Fatima Ptacek back as well to play his niece. Some of the scenes in Before I Disappear even came straight from Curfew, although according to Christensen, reshooting these was the “biggest challenge” of the entire shoot.
Also something I’m sure I’ll talk about at length in my review, but have to mention here because it was just that good, was the lighting in the film. You rarely see so much care or consideration in evidence, but it adds so much to this film. Positively top notch. The whole movie is way more competent than a movie from a first time feature director has any business being, and I can’t wait to see the in-development Sydney Hall.