Review: Before I Disappear (Shawn Christensen, 2014)

by Matt Strackbein

I visit New York City a lot, and whenever I’m there I feel like I’m – what I describe as – closer to the source. I’m not sure what that means, but sometimes I think I lived there in a past life, not that I believe in that sort of thing. Anyway that may have something to do with why I like movies that take place there as much as I do. The city itself is a character, and there’s an inherent kind of vibe that comes along with those films, which you don’t easily get from other locations. It isn’t phony and it isn’t make believe, it feels more than real but not fictionally so. It’s as if the City lends itself to a movie in a way only New York can, in a way that improves the production by a few notches.

The fact that Before I Disappear (2014) takes place in Manhattan and Brooklyn is one reason why I wanted to see the film, but I had no idea it even existed until the DVD release. That happens sometimes, you know? Even though I watch 3 to 5 fully vetted new releases a week I still don’t always know about everything that’s available. It happens, and this was one of those unknowns. Maybe if I paid closer attention to the Academy Awards I would’ve known about the short film this was based on called Curfew (2012), which won the Oscar for that year. Maybe if I listened to more indie rock I would have heard of the band Stellastarr, which was formed by the Writer, Director, and Star Shawn Christensen, but I didn’t. So after I watched the trailer, which looked good, I did some quick research and happily let my expectations begin to soar. I was not disappointed. The movie was fantastic.

Have you ever watched a movie and thought to yourself, “What a piece of crap! Don’t they know children are starving in the world? How could they waste all that money?” I have those thoughts often – like I said, I watch a lot of new releases, so I’ve seen a good deal of big budget movies (with pending sequels) that should never have been made. I get that it’s all in the eye of the beholder, and I understand that not every movie needs to be a work of meaningful, life changing art, but how many franchise-movies does the world need? See my point? I digress.

I watched Before I Disappear twice in one weekend. I went from having no idea it existed to watching it twice, and so take it from me, this is a film that is about something meaningful enough to validate it’s expenses (whatever they may have been). Life can be a gut punch, and people may not handle those moments well, but then something comes along and changes that. In an almost storybook kind of magic, this movie depicts one guys struggle with his life, for whatever reason, until his eleven year old niece needs him. It’s a rock solid movie. And it’s as heartwarming as it is gritty, thanks, in part, to New York City. Because that’s just what happens there: the good, the bad and the city itself.

Matt Strackbein is an Apparel-Designer working in the Outdoor and Ski industry. He is also a self-published comic book creator, as well as an accomplished Letterhack with over 200 hundred printed letters in comic book letter columns.