Nobody Knows I'm Here Movie Review: A poignant character study elevated by Jorge Garcia's compelling performance
Gaspar Antillo's directorial debut is one of those films that makes the viewer work for the answers
There are some movie characters that make a strong impression without doing much. Sometimes the nature of a character is informed by their dialogues and their interaction with other characters. Other times, they don't have to do either. All you have to do is just stay with them and you will know what kind of people they are. Memo, the protagonist of Nobody Knows I'm Here, the first Chilean original from Netflix, is one such example.
Director: Gaspar Antillo
Cast: Jorge Garcia, Luis Gnecco, Gaston Pauls
Streaming on: Netflix
The title of the film is a reference to a song that holds a special significance for Memo (Jorge Garcia), an overweight recluse living with his uncle (Neruda-fame Luis Gnecco). The two earn their living from the wool-making business. This is not what Memo was supposed to do. He was a child prodigy whose dreams were shattered by a few selfish individuals, including his father, who abandoned him when he was little. Jorge is suitably restrained in the role. His body language conveys volumes. He plays Memo as this shy, socially-awkward man, who is more comfortable expressing his feelings to trees than people. The only person who gets him is his uncle.
Nobody Knows I'm Here boasts some of the most stunning locales ever filmed. Cinematographer Sergio Armstrong makes use of wide, panoramic frames to do justice to this infinitely photogenic place. It's the sort of serene location that a long-time city dweller would dream of settling in. One can see why this film, helmed by newcomer Gaspar Antillo, appealed to producer Pablo Larrain. The latter has explored similar themes in some of his earlier directorial features.
I was initially under the impression that this was a rags-to-riches tale, but thankfully, it does something fresh and inventive. It's a film that becomes pertinent in this age of internet celebrities. It's about the price one has to pay for chasing fame and the conflict between one's appearance and talent. The world is sometimes unfair to talented folks who don't have media-friendly looks. But when they suddenly go viral for some odd reason, everyone wants to take advantage of them. Memo is not a sympathy-seeking character despite being tormented by painful memories of a childhood incident involving a fake child prodigy named Angelo; the man who ruined his dreams and now makes his living as a motivational speaker. Memo's unpredictable quality is what elevates the film.
This is one of those films that makes the viewer work for the answers. It is neither interested in spoon-feeding nor melodramatic outbursts. Since Memo likes to fantasise often, some of the imagery is quite surreal. In one scene, Memo pukes what can only be described as 'glitter fluid'. The film's final moments, in which Memo is allowed a short moment of glory, is likely a subtle nod to the final shot of Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. This is visual storytelling at its finest.