When attending a film fest like SXSW, you have to keep in mind that most of what you just saw was surrounded by “festival hype”, the crowd was cheering, the cast and crew were there, and you could cut the excitement with a knife. You can’t let things like this cloud your judgment when selecting your favorite film of the festival. You really need to take in everything you saw and digest it for a while. Knowing this and having now seen BEFORE I DISAPPEAR in a neutral setting, I feel like I can finally say it: BEFORE I DISAPPEAR was the best film of SXSW 2014.
The film follows Richie (Shawn Christensen) a heroin addict that has recently decided to end it all, but moments before his bathtub lullaby can be completed he receives a call from his estranged sister (Emmy Rossum) asking him to look after his niece for a few hours. What follows is a journey through the underbelly of Brooklyn with an addict and his adorable niece Sophia (Fatima Ptacek).
As intriguing as that sounds, it’s in the style of the story telling that Writer/Director Shawn Christensen really shines. With neon shadowing right out of a Refn film, and a distorted sense of reality BEFORE I DISAPPEAR becomes a dream you can fully emerge in. It’s no wonder Christensen already has an Oscar under his belt for the short this film was based on. Not only did he hit the jackpot on casting, but even the soundtrack is something to be applauded.
For days after seeing the film I found myself humming the tune of Tame Impala’s “Elephant” while walking the streets of Austin and thinking about how Christensen incorporated The Breakfast Club dance into the scene in the bowling alley. Even as I write about it the song is still in my head and it’s awesome!
You can’t talk about this film without mentioning the acting, it’s incredible. Ron Perlman and Emmy Rossum are as amazing as ever, but it’s Fatima Ptacek that pulls the film together. The chemistry between her and Christensen is amazing, and makes you realizes the importance of a little girl named Sophia.
I’m happy to hear that the film is finding distribution and I can’t wait until everyone gets to experience it. Until then I’ll keep humming “Elephant” and thinking about my favorite film of SXSW.
By Ryan Davis