Monday, March 1, 2021

Movie with Abe: I’m No Longer Here

I’m No Longer Here
Directed by Fernando Frias
Released May 27, 2020 (Netflix)

There are people who are able to thrive in any environment, traveling from town to town or jetting across the world and interacting with those around them as if they were in their own homes. Others need to feed off the energy of a familiar place in order to be comfortable, and they may become accustomed to their surroundings and be uninterested or unable to adjust to a new setting. When they aren’t the ones choosing to leave one place and be transplanted to another, acclimating can be made harder, since feelings of resentment and isolation only become greater in a new and unwelcoming place. Mexico’s official Oscar submission for Best International Feature explores this concept through the experiences of its very particular protagonist.

Ulises (Daniel Garcia) is a seventeen-year-old in Monterrey, Mexico, who runs the Los Terkos gang, a group that believes strongly in the Kolombia way of life and frequently dances to a signature style of music. His unintended interactions with a dangerous criminal organization force him to cross the border into America to keep his family safe. When he arrives in New York, he finds a different world, one where he struggles to find work, which is made even more difficult by his not knowing English. Lin (Angelina Chen), whose uncle employs Ulises to clean his roof, takes an interest in getting to know Ulises and connect with him despite his desire to be left alone.

Ulises makes an immediate impression with his distinctive hair, which prompts comments from those he knows and those he doesn’t, and also leads to assumptions being made about his character and his productivity. Ulises adheres strongly to what he believes, but he’s hardly the most motivated worker, and there’s an added degree of aggression and impatience that only further complicates his inability to understand the language most of the people he interacts with speak when he comes to America. One scene finds him cursing out a well-meaning cop who simply asks him if he has a permit to play music while he is dancing and even tries to advise him on where to obtain one, presuming that it must be yet another person who has come to tell him that he is doing something wrong.

This film is presented through interspersed scenes from different moments in time, compiling Ulises’ story in a jumbled fashion that speaks to the chaos he feels in arriving to somewhere new where is regularly reminded of where he has left behind. Garcia makes a strong debut as Ulises, keeping him less than emotive until he has the chance to truly shine and become entranced by his dance. Chen, who has the largest supporting role, inhabits the genuine, caring curiosity of another that feels too prying for the private and introverted Ulises. This film, like its main character, has a specific style to it, one that makes its often slow-paced journey considerably more interesting and worthwhile.


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