Tell Me Who I Am, directed by Ed Perkins, is a new documentary film exploring the stranger-than-fiction true story of twins Alex and Marcus Lewis. A fascinating, if sometimes heavy-handed exploration of the role that memory plays in one’s life, this documentary is sure to be extremely resonant on an emotional level.
The movie tells the story of Alex Lewis and his twin brother Marcus as Alex suffers a traumatic motorcycle accident resulting in amnesia, and Marcus, the only person Alex remembers, is left to help put the pieces back together. The story of Alex and Marcus is specific and unique enough that it makes for a very cinematic documentary, albeit one that feels almost too personal to the point that one has the sense that they shouldn’t be watching it.
Perhaps the only significant issue with the film is that it attempts to create a mystery out of the story. Granted, this approach seems like the obvious one to take because of the subject’s lost memories, but the more interesting part of Alex’s arc isn’t his journey to uncover the past. Rather, the more compelling storyline is the relationship between Alex and Marcus and how Alex’s accident drew them closer together.
That said, the over-emphasis on the mystery prevents the movie from having the emotional impact that it likely otherwise could have had. Though the ending is certainly very impactful and resonant, the fact that the film keeps building to a big secret being revealed allows the audience to predict what the secret is going to be. While still shocking, the movie ends up dragging towards the middle as viewers are left wanting the reveal to come.
Marcus and Alex are definitely very interesting subjects, and Perkins does an excellent job of building the dynamic between them in an interesting way. Since much of what is being discussed in the film is personal and weighty, the viewer very much feels like an outsider to the situation. Nevertheless, Perkins draws the audience into Alex and Marcus’s world by allowing them to tell their own story.
Perhaps the most important thing to gain from this story is the importance of having someone else in one’s life. Alex and Marcus rely on each other for support, and this is what effectively allows them to conquer all of their frustrations and struggles. With this, a story that otherwise seems very bleak and depressing instead becomes one infused with hope about the wonder of the human will.
On a technical level, the movie is quite strong. The cinematography and editing are quite good, giving the film a very elegant feel. Although a majority of the movie is told via interviews, some archive footage and a few re-enactments are used to supplement the stories told by the Marcus twins. That said, these interviews are captivating enough to tell the story on their own.
Despite some issues in the first half, Tell Me Who I Am manages to be a compelling documentary thanks to the profoundly touching story at its core. Full of emotion, this is definitely one of the saddest films to come out this year, yet its sense of hope ultimately triumphs.
Tell Me Who I Am opens in theaters and hits Netflix on October 18.