Reviewed by Stacey Yvonne-Trying to find oneself and one’s place in the world is usually a journey reserved for men. We’re told the fallacy that women, especially white women, have it all figured out and enter into each phase of their lives with relative ease. Before I Go shows a woman in middle age who is discovering her fall from privilege to obscurity. The path that she’s on is bleak and we see her contemplate whether to stop now or just keep going.
“How many years would you give up for just 10 seconds to fly?” She asks an unsuspecting young man. She surmises she would trade all of the years she has left just for a chance to fly for 10 seconds. It’s a perfect thematic element that showcases how the value of her life has decreased. Starring Anabella Sciorra (The Kitchen) and Robert Klein (The Backup Plan), Before I Go tells the story of an aging musician who finds herself at the same age as her mother before she killed herself. The situations in the former musician’s life have her contemplating the same outcome and we show how her neighbors and other acquaintances and even strangers factor into her decision.
Sciorra as Samantha Miller delivers a realistic and frustrating performance. Her internal anger that was masked ineffectively with sarcasm and bluntness, permeates the screen and covers her in a way that shadows her pain. We see her in several situations, some in which she’s the protagonist, others in which she’s very much the antagonist, and each time is so relatable regardless of whether you agree or disagree with her actions.
Early on she meets with her friend Jane (Walter McCready) who tells Samantha that he can’t handle her emotional baggage and tells her to get a therapist. He tells her she sounds depressed and she argues she has nothing to be depressed about. Of course, over the course of her days every footstep she makes taps out “I’m depressed” on the cold New York streets, but Samantha can’t hear. I mentioned earlier that she’s in the limbo between being relevant and being forgotten. There’s a part of her that just wants to give into elder age. A former co-worker asks why she’s quitting her job and then congratulates Samantha on her retirement, a fact that Samantha never says.
When she acts out, seemingly begging for someone to notice her, to help her, she’s widely ignored until she escalates the situation. We see her attempt to give in to this, when one day, a case of mistaken identity leads her to be an extra on-set of a TV show. However, it’s consequences of her earlier behavior that call her out when she most wants to be obscure.
Samantha has a lot going on. Her head is far too muddled with trying to convince her dad, Jasper (Robert Klein) to declutter his apartment, or trying to convince herself that she’s not as washed up as she feels. Samantha is akin to a one-hit-wonder and she never made a follow-up to her hit first album. The reasons are never fully explained, but we do learn that into her career, her mother took her own life, scarring Samantha for decades.
The physical manifestations of and resistance to grief is one of the most powerful and uncomfortable things about the film. It’s easy to view someone raving on the sidewalk as crazy. But as Samantha begins her own very relatable descent, it starts becoming clear that maybe there’s more to the story of that person after all. There’s a moment she’s sitting at a playground watching children play. One child’s mother is there and admonishes her child for not waiting her turn to go down the slide.
The child’s name is Hope and Samantha notes that it’s a wonderful name for a little girl. And what could her life had been if she’d grown up hearing that all the time. She begins speaking with regret about her dad, but as the audience, we know the monologue is more autobiographical than maybe even Samantha knows. We see the mother tense up, understanding that she’s engaged someone who is not well, and when Samantha notices the mother’s discomfort, she begins to laugh, almost maniacally.
Add this to the earthworm that becomes her pet project, her downfall, and maybe her salvation, and you end up with a midlife crisis for the ages all wrapped up in one hour and 42 minutes of screentime. The film is meandering and heartfelt, yet simple, and shows the complexities of life through its harsh normalcy. Samantha’s soul is reaching out for connection while her mind tries time and time again to block it. We see her constantly at war with herself to the point where her body seems to shut down, while mind and soul fight it out.
I did reach a point of fatigue. A point where I said, “ok, I get it, what’s next?!” and then realized this is exactly the way Samantha’s character feels. And exactly why she keeps trying from day to day to find something to live for. The music is curated by Matthew Puckett and features vocals from Ali Gallo and Chelsea Lee who appears as a street artist. The songs are beautiful and fit the message of the movie well without being heavy-handed.
Robert Klein brings his Bronx charm to his role and supporting performances by Willie Garson (who is delightfully deranged), Craig Bierko (whose appearance is brief, but entertaining), the lovely Andrea Navedo, and of course, New York City all fleshed out a story that showed good effort and a diverse cast.
Lise Romanoff, CEO and Managing Director of Vision Films says, “Before I Go shares a poignant message of finding and accepting one’s true self. Annabella Sciorra is a tour de force in this role, with an outstanding supporting cast she makes you laugh and cry with equal intensity. Audiences will root for her survival and will be moved by this incredible performance.”
Writer/Director, Eric Schaeffer shares, “My hope is that this film serves to inspire hope in those who identify with the struggles of Annabella’s character, Samantha. More than ever, feeling a part of rather than apart from is something we all need.”
Before I Go was written and directed by Eric Schaeffer (Never Again) and premiered June 23rd through Vision films. Available on iTunes, Vimeo, Amazon, GooglePlay, Vudu, Fandango Now, and Vimeo, and all major cable platforms. DVD retailers will include Amazon and other major online retailers. Canadian cable providers include Rogers and Shaw. Score 3/5