Maciek J. Pradziad ’23
Ed Perkins’ documentary, Tell Me Who I Am, examines how identity and memory are connected, the nature of trusting another human being, the effects of trauma, and the struggle of communication. The film explores these complex issues with intricate cinematography by Patrick Smith and Erik Wilson that allows the audience to experience the story from the eyes of the two main subjects’ as they are painting the full picture of their past. Although the initial introductions weren’t clear, the editing by David Charap and Andy R. Worboys allows for the audience to take in the magnitude of the story in a slow burn that makes every reveal more powerful and shocking.
The story of Tell Me Who I Am revolves around two brothers named Marcus and Alex Lewis. At the age of 18, Alex lost his memory due to a motorcycle accident, only recognizing his brother after awakening from a coma. With no one else to trust, Alex relied on the information that Marcus told him to regain his identity.
However, Alex’s journey of restoring his identity is deluded because of a dark family secret that Marcus actively tried hiding from him for 35 years. The visuals of Tell Me Who I Am were breathtaking on their own, particularly during the reenactment scenes of Marcus and Alex’s childhood. These “narrative” sections of the story were primarily made of wide shots and close-ups, allowing for the audience to experience both the beauty of the landscape and the grandness of their house, but also the claustrophobia, fear, and loneliness the boys felt.
The cinematography also gracefully captured the knowledge gained optically by having the visual motifs be completely out of focus when first presented and having them become more clear every time they reappeared. Even the interview scenes with Marcus and Alex were shot impressively, capturing every slight change in tone and expression. Although the visuals told the story perfectly, the editing truly made this tragedy as gripping as it is. Charap and Worboys brilliantly edited the film into three sections.
The first section tells the story from Alex’s perspective, the second section from Marcus’, and the third section joins the two brothers together in resolution. This way of compiling the story allows the audience to feel as lost and confused as Alex, making for an interesting viewing experience that makes Alex’s journey personal to each audience member. The only mistake I found in the film would bethe editing in the beginning when the two brothers are introduced. The voices of Marcus and Alex are heard separately from the associated image of them talking, making it hard to distinguish between the two twins.
Aside from that, the pacing, the story, and the time passed between each clue was perfect, making for an experience that has you sitting on the edge of your seat waiting to find out more about the dark truth. Tell Me Who I Am is a gripping, heart-wrenching documentary that captures the complexities of the human mind and the intricacies of relationships. Although the film begins confusingly with the identities of Marcus and Alex, the rest of the film helps to realize who they truly are and the strength that lies within them. The Tell Me Who I Am documentary is available on Netflix.