Movie Review: ‘Before I Disappear’ Is Visually Sumptous And Thematically Bland


Before I Disappear’ is kind of an exercise in style as substance. Can it work? Can we say something interesting about characters while slowing everything down into an abstract vision? Some directors can and they use these tricks in just the right moments for an effect we don’t see coming. Director Shawn Christensen does not quite understand how to work that effect.

He certainly understands how to wield it. There are numerous scenes of dead people dropping in on conversations or bowling alleys breaking into dance. On their own, they are interesting to look at. As a piece of a narrative, they only work in spurts. I won’t deny that I was impressed with the use of shadows or the interesting choices in music. Yet, I can’t fully recommend a movie that feels this laborious and plodding.

Their are several plot layers that run through this movie, but all of them could have been explored a bit smoother. The film is always at its most interesting when it stops with all the fancy shit and lets its characters talk. I especially liked the chemistry between the main character, Richie (Shawn Christensen), and his newly discovered niece, Sophia (Fatima Ptacek). Sadly, there’s not enough of it to make up for all the other stuff.

Ironically, this movie opens with Richie trying to kill himself in a bathtub. I actually watched this movie over the course of two separate baths on two separate days (hence, the irony). Luckily, or not depending on your feelings about Richie, he gets a call from his sister (Emmy Rossum) asking him to watch his niece. He has not really met his niece and this seems like a rather serious requests. That’s why he decides to put his suicide on hold until he can help his sis out real quick.

Yet, he mostly ends up traveling from one night club to the next and gets asked a lot of questions that he could have answered a lot better. It’s a typical movie cliche that characters never have good answers to obvious questions. It’s a lazy way of creating drama that can’t be discovered in truth. Anyways, that is about it. He watches his niece, thinks about his ex girlfriend, tries to kill himself, and runs into a bunch of volatile guys in clubs.

You may not need to see this movie, but certainly keep an eye out for more movies by Shawn Anderson. He clearly has a talent and with the right script he might be able to do something special. Only time will tell on that one, but for now his recent feature is not worth the money. Check it out on the Internet or some other place where it’s free. Maybe, on television in like 10 years. That’s it’s worth.

Nathan Ligon

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