By Adam Ray Palmer
Every now and then, I look for a good documentary to do either one of two things… learn about a certain subject I am unfamiliar with, or to feel something that you do not feel often, good or bad.
Tell Me Who I Am kind of does both the above, you follow a 20-year narrative that’s hard to witness but you also learn about yourself.
Tell Me Who I Am centres on twin brothers, Alex and Marcus Lewis. When 18-year-old Alex Lewis wakes up from a coma after surviving a motorcycle accident, the world is not one he remembers. He has forgotten everything including his home, his parents and he can't even remember his own name. The only thing he does know is that the person sitting next to him, is his identical twin brother, Marcus.
Marcus now must play god to Alex. Alex relies on him to give his memory back; to tell him who he is. However, serene childhood Marcus paints for his twin covers a dark family secret. Now, after decades of hiding from their past, Alex and Marcus go on a journey together to face the truth and finally discover who Alex really is.
What ensues over the 85-minute runtime is a difficult, harrowing watch. The archival footage (images mainly) from over the years quite brilliantly, yet hauntingly, paints a vivid picture of emotional destruction. Ed Perkins, director, cleverly puts this documentary together like a theatre production, climaxing with an emotional punch.
Act one is from Alex’s point of view, letting the audience learn alongside the protagonist as we see and hear of an idyllic childhood. Act two is from Marcus’ side, a more distressing tale of how he needed to protect his brother from a real-life nightmare. If Alex knew too much, would he have ever fully recovered?
And then Act three comes, hitting you like a ton of bricks. The Netflix production brings the pair of them together years later, two 52-year-olds laying everything out there on a table, literally. What Ed (director) has achieved here in 85 minutes is stirring, yet only skin deep. If this was a mini-series, so much more could have been explored.
Whilst this delves into the blurred boundaries of memory and reality, and the emotional bonds that allow us to survive, Perkins’ documentary patiently builds for 40-mintues, and then so much is unravelled so quickly. This is one monumental story that could do with further scrutiny. But as a standalone documentary, it certainly gets in your head, screaming at your internally… “what would you do?”.
Cineroom’s rating: 4 Stars
Tell Me Who I Am is on Netflix worldwide now – certificate 15