Tell Me Who I Am (Ed Perkins, 2019, UK)

               If you could live life fresh again without any memory of the past, would you do it? If you could erase a trauma from someone’s memory, would you do it? Can we truly ever recover from trauma? Ed Perkins’ Tell Me Who I Am is an incredible documentary which addresses these major life questions in an intimate way. Centering around twin brothers Alex and Marcus Lewis, the film tells the story of the aftermath of Marcus’s motorcycle accident at age 18. The accident resulted in severe memory loss, and Alex had to rely on his brother Marcus to fill in all the gaps and make him understand his life again. The first third of the film (Tell Me Who I Am is bookended into three neat sections) relates Alex’s story.
This story in itself would be quite fascinating, but there are hints that something is missing from the story. The boys’ father is incredibly distant, and their mother exhibits eccentric behavior. They’re not allowed to enter the house, living in a shed outside. Perkins’ unfolds the mystery in a gradual manner, peeling back layer after layer as the film progresses. The second third of the film allows Marcus to tell his side of the story, gradually unpeeling another layer of the mystery.
The film is evocatively shot in dark hues by cinematographers Patrick Smith and Erik Wilson, who lend the film a permeating sense of dread. The reconstructions of the boys’ youth are also incredibly well done, and are often expressed with a first-hand perspective that relays Alex’s experience of regaining his memory again in a very vivid way. The film progresses to a final catharsis between the two brothers that is incredibly profound and deeply painful. While it sometimes feels that Tell Me Who I Am leaves more questions than answers to be resolved, this is perhaps intentional.



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