Review: Nobody Knows I’m Here (2020) – Singing In Isolation

Jorge Garcia in Nobody Knows I’m Here

Nobody Knows I’m Here is, a quiet, tranquilly shot picture all about self-worth and the concept of being enough for not just the world around you and the people you encounter but yourself and while its simple story and setting gives way to such contemplation, its dual narrative and fantastical asides say more about Memo (Lukas Vergara/Jorge Garcia) that a film too melancholy to punch through the silence.

A uniquely personal feature debut by Gaspar Antillo, this Chilean film flounders in moments of depression when at his core, Memo, a wounded adult holding onto the pain of a past life as a famous singer, forced to hide his appearance behind a more ‘acceptable’ facade, is a dreamer, a fantascist who clings onto dreams in the absense of real happiness. Living on a secluded island with his uncle, working on a small farm and handling wool for the local village, he is perpetually told to forget his past, move on and grow. But Antillo wants his character stuck in wallowing in this luscious island of greenery and isolation, beautifully framed by cinematographer Sergio Armstrong.

Here Memo’s fantasies of returning to the light of stardom on his own merits shines brightest and when the bright red of the spotlight shines through the trees, Antillo does his best work. Looking almost like a scene ripped straight from Mike Stanley’s Color Out Of Space, instead of playing like the alien or alarming, these moments of eccentricity and momentary joy, hiding away from the truth are the glimmers of hope that keep the film going through a tough watch of betrayals and personal tragedy. Through it all Garcia is fantastic regardless of his limited dialogue, a gentle giant with flashes of white hot burning rage, conveying sentiment through a fearless, honest physical performance.

Long stretches of Nobody Knows I’m Here however, rely solely on Garcia and while he is Memo, the glacial pace means when Antillo’s story (co written by Antillo, Josefina Fernández and Enrique Videla) finally arrives in the form of inquisitive local Marta (Millaray Lobos) with her determination to pull Memo from his fantasy into a world she assumes he is missing, her presence and the arrival of reality places you in another film entirely. The peaceful presence of nature is replaced by a cold, hard world intent on reminding Memo of the place that crushed him and only some sparce flashbacks justify this beige analogy.

As the real world encroaches, Memo becomes less of himself and although Garcia weathers the incoming storm, the film that surrounds him seems more focused on what Memo could be, not who he is. While in the end, the splashes of colour Memo adores, from glittery outerwear to painted nails almost vanish, as we are left with a film that seems to distance itself from the visual flair that made its opening chapter so special. While Antillo justifies this shift by showing that the world wants to treat Memo like a commodity, something to use and discard, it also feels like Antillo’s intention as well. Memo is only as important as the story he can tell.

Despite his growing relationship with Marta and the beauty he is surrounded by on his island, Antillo concentrates on the incoming threat, not Memo’s state of mind and for a film consumed by whats going on inside this man’s fractured mind, it feels like a looming oversight to forget about him in favour of a pointless mystery surrounding how Memo’s 15 minutes of fame went up in smoke so spectacularly. While Memo is a fascinating creation, a bullied and shamed man, made guilty by years going over the same thing, again and again, Nobody Knows I’m Here reminds you, due to a squandered finale that, Memo’s fame and his voice are not the most interesting thing about him, no matter what this film tries to convince you of.

TSR

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