And alongside those extremes is a pair of scenes between Richie and Gideon (Paul Wesley), another of our hero’s occasional employers, and both are little masterpieces of duet acting. You see, Gideon’s girlfriend was the dead girl in the stall, and he’s got a feeling Richie knows something about it, and Richie’s got a feeling that Gideon’s got a feeling. The result is a mirrored set of loaded conversations, one where nothing is said, another where everything is. There’s nothing pat or cliché about either of these characters, or the situation they’re in; the stakes are real, and the threat of physical danger typical to such altercations is coupled with a much more interesting (and powerful) sense of emotional intensity. They both know what’s happened, and they’re both terrified of it, for surprisingly similar reasons.
Shot by Daniel Katz with a keen eye for casual late-night beauty (and with a slow walk-out to “House of the Rising Sun” that’s one of the most Scorsese moments I’ve seen in a non-Scorsese movie, and yes that’s a compliment), Before I Disappear is stylish and cool without breaking a sweat, yet free of the hollow emotional detachment that’s so often associated with those qualities. It’s the kind of movie that could presumably find an audience, but it’s getting an oddly muted release, even for an indie; despite its Oscar pedigree and Audience Award win at SXSW, it’s getting dumped into a crowded, sink-or-swim weekend by IFC (and it’s not even their only release this week). I might not have even heard of it, much less seen it, had it not closed my hometown film festival.
But I did see it, and now I’ve seen it again, and forgive me for doing a bit of missionary work here. Because, you see, this is one of the pleasures of this job: when you find a film that is truly, genuinely special, in the hopes of helping other people make the same discovery, you shout and shout about it, as loudly and as insistently as you can. It’s an original, intoxicating, giddily alive movie.
Before I Disappear is out Friday in limited release and on demand.