Overview: How to occupy a fifth grader, in the style of a New York native. IFC Films; 2014; Rated R; 93 minutes.
A Small Favor: Maggie (Emmy Rossum) asks Richie (Shawn Christensen) for a simple favor: to pick up her daughter Sophia (Fatima Ptacek) from school. It’s supposed to be easy: pick up the kid and drop her off. But Maggie begs Richie to look after her for the remainder of the evening. Richie, a recreational drug enthusiast and near suicide victim, struggles to entertain and supervise his young and intellectual niece. Before I Disappear is a fusion of Uptown Girls meets Psycho with an edge of The Skeleton Twins and a hint of Donnie Darko. As this eclectic mix indicates, it is a satisfying, trippy mashup.
Supporting the sense of eclecticism, the song selection heightens the film with a supplementary dimension of humor. One of the best aspects of the film is that it does not make sense, nor does it need to. At times the events taking place are illogical and psychedelic, keeping us attuned to the fact that we are following around a drug-laced individual scrambling about in the city. One element I had to question was the actor playing the role of the nightclub owner. Ron Perlman’s presence is not a favorable addition to the cast; he feels misplaced and unable to get into the same mindset of the other actors. Luckily, his character has relatively limited screen time. The sequence of events and the events themselves are not plot-twisty or mind blowing. The film has repetitive and dull points. The reveal of the reason the sister is detained or the pills Richie really swallowed (not typically appealing or entertaining scenarios), t work as an epitome of random as illustrated by director Shawn Christensen.
Drugs, Death, and the Defender: As the title indicates, death follows Richie throughout the duration of the film, a foreboding, shadow that is to him a welcome companion. Drug use is heavily integrated. It is not glamorized. Users and abusers are not reprimanded; the aftereffects speak for themselves. With excessive drug use, death and drugs play an intimate game where Richie’s inner demons manifest in his world through hallucinations and the real world. The anchor throughout his panicked ordeal is the Sophie, beyond her years and inexplicably focused; contrary to the sporadic mess that is her uncle. Ptacek is one of the actresses we will see later down the line. Her ability transform from tight-lipped and disapproving niece to accepting and more free-spirited is seamless.
Final Thoughts: Before I Disappear is a dark-humored complication of randomness that is still able to convey the influence of familial ties. It is strategic disarray in a most favorable form.