I’m Not Here (2019) – Summary, Review (with Spoilers)

I'm Not Here (2019) - Title Card
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I’m Not Here, as it traces its lead’s downfall, stirs up your emotions until tears spill out your eyes.


Director(s) Michelle Schumacher
Written By Tony Cummings, Michelle Schumacher
Date Released 3/8/2019
Genre(s) Drama
Good If You Like Slow Moving Dramas

Movies Which Split The Lead Actor Into Different Key Parts Of Their Life

You Want The Gist, Not Every Last Detail

Isn’t For You If You Need A Comic Relief Amongst Dreary Drama

Aren’t For Watching Dreary People Wander Their Apartment For A Good Portion Of A Movie

Noted Cast
Steve (60) J.K. Simmons
Steve (6) Iain Armitage
Steve (Adult) Sebastian Stan
Karen Maika Monroe
Steve’s Mom Mandy Moore
Steve’s Dad Max Greenfield

Plot Summary

It’s Steven’s 60th birthday, and he is alone in a house filled with boxes, his lights about to be turned out, and seemingly nothing but alcohol, hard candy, and old spaghetti to consume. But as phone calls come in to spread the good news, as we see with nearly all Steve’s memories, things turn sour. Thus leaving him wandering his home, going through memories, and seemingly contemplating if his 60th birthday should be his last one.

Other Noteworthy Facts & Moments

  • There is an after credits scene, but it basically just recaps what happened in the movie.

Highlights

Iain Armitage

Steve - 6 (Iain Armitage) watching his parents argue.
Steve – 6 (Iain Armitage)

There is a reason Armitage is probably the biggest child star not connected to a book franchise. From the sweetness we see when he is hanging with his dad to that heartbreaking moment, during the custody battle, when he says, “I want my family back” he just gives you a whirl of emotions. All the while, Cummings and Schumacher never push him to be this overly precocious kind of kid. He is rooted in authenticity, and it is seeing Steve’s childhood trauma through him which allows the adult version and the 60 years old to have the impact they do.

History Repeating Itself

There is always something about thinking or saying you’ll never end up or be like your parents yet you walk right into their shoes. We see that in the movie and with us not getting to know Steve’s mom or dad too well, seeing Steve and Karen have similar issues, minus one big one, clues you into his parents’ downfall. Also, it shows how important being a role model is and illustrates generational trauma and the need to break it before it ends the family line.

This Will Make You Cry

It won’t be until the end, but as you go from past to present and see older Steve recollect how his life went wrong, there comes this point when he separates what he can hold himself accountable for and what was out of his hands. For you come to realize it is all one moment which, after finally achieving sobriety, likely led his life to what we see. But when we see him literally embrace the trauma, it breaks you. For even if you haven’t experienced what Steve went through, I’m Not Here pushes you to understand the destruction which is avoidance. Hence all the boxes which represent all of Steve’s baggage and boxes away memories. Hence the phone calls reminding him of the relationships he lost and him looking at a gun which could lead to him truly following his father or, even if towards the end of his life, making it so he isn’t fully his father’s son.

On The Fence

Things Omitted

Karen (Maika Moore) and Steve - Adult (Sebastian Stan) laying on the floor together.
Karen (Maika Moore) and Steve – Adult (Sebastian Stan)

Perhaps the one issue you may have is the big event which irrevocably changed Steve’s life to meeting him at 60, we aren’t filled in what happened between those two moments. You could form your own theories, and the phone calls clue you in a little bit, but considering how much of this movie is Simmons wandering about, it makes this time gap noticeable. Especially as you realize, rather than note what happened during those 20+ years, we instead get 60 year old Steve spitting up blood, drinking, seeing Simmons’ ass every now and then, and other mundane tasks. The kind which illustrates how depressed and uninvolved he is with his own life, but also leaves you wanting more of the journey which got him to that point.

Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing) | Purchase, Rent, or Get Merchandise On Amazon

I’m Not Here definitely feels like an indie drama which may play at an art house theater, but never gets a wide release. But, despite clearly being a labor of love not necessarily meant for mainstream approval, the performances feel like the kind of drama you’d expect from a cable or premium movie. In my mind, this feels like something you’d see on HBO, and whether we are talking about Simmons, Stan, or Armitage, you connect with the different stages of Steve’s life and find yourself chipped away at each time you recognize why Steve is in the pain he is in.

Steve - 60 (J.K. Simmons) looking into a mirror.
Steve – 60 (J.K. Simmons)

Leading to why the positive label. I’m Not Here is a wood burning oven which doesn’t start off freezing cold, but warm and snuggly. Something it takes advantage of for as it deconstructs Steve’s life, you come to think about ways you may have gone wrong, things you could prevent, yet recognize what once were shifts in your behavior you undid just because of one moment. So as you see Steve looking at a gun, feeling haunted by ever good memory with a bad ending, it forces you to be retrospective and perhaps not just cry for Steve but yourself. Not just in sorrow but also in a cleanse like sense of forgiveness.


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