Before I Disappear is all about what relationships really mean to us, what do we do for family and how far are we willing to take things for those that we've lost. It follows Ritchie who, after tragic events, has reached the lowest point in his life and is snapped back into the present by a phone call from his estranged sister asking him to look after her 11-year-old daughter, Sophia.
Shawn Christensen does a magnificent job creating these characters and giving them a good amount of depth without losing the audience or becoming too convoluted. The writing was sharp and, at times, thought-provoking. His directing was spot on, and I really can't wait to see what his next project will be.
The cast in this film has just superb people filling in all these nuanced characters. There wasn't a miscast in the entire film. From Ron Perlman as Richie's sleezy boss, Bill, to Paul Wesley as Richie's drug-addled friend, Gideon, to "a blink and you'll miss him" performance by Richard Schiff who is just an amazing actor and can do a lot with only a few lines of dialogue. All that being said; the star of the movie was Fatima Ptacek who portrays 11-year-old Sophia with such commitment. If you have kids or know anyone who has kids, you'll recognize Fatima as the voice of Dora in Dora the Explorer. Her performance really blew me away.
The thing that I really loved about this movie, and it might seem small, was that, by the end of the film, there was a great sense of closure. Movies that leave you hanging or make you stare at the screen going "that's it? That's how you are going to end things?!" always frustrate me. Just take the extra 5-10 minutes to give the audience some sense of an ending. Shawn doesn't leave you hanging; he gives you that extra 5-10 minutes, and in that extra time he is able to bring out something so beautiful that it made this reviewer get just a tad bit misty-eyed.
When this movie comes out, go watch it. There are times where I feel I have wasted precious time that I could never get back, and this was the exact opposite of that. Being at SXSW, you only have so much time to watch great movies, catch musicians that are just playing their hearts out and the last thing you want to think about is "did I just waste my time?" (Trust me, that did happen to me on an occasion or two), but not with this film. Shawn does a great job with the film, with the writing, the casting; everything hits with this film.