Tell Me Who I Am

 

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A real-life story of twins leads into issues all the more compelling if not known in advance.

 
Tell Me Who I Am
 

The brothers featured in this film being twins are two in number but, even so, when watching this film about Marcus and Alex Lewis, one immediately thinks back to that haunting film about triplets released here in 2018, Three Identical Strangers. Like that film, which also told an astonishing true story, this piece directed by Ed Perkins offers a work which starts out with an intriguing situation but then changes gear and deals in revelations that transform our notions as to the nature of the film that we are watching. Or rather, to be more accurate, that’s how it should work to achieve maximum effect.

 

In the case of Three Identical Strangers, critics were specifically asked not to reveal how the film developed and that was indeed apt since the element of surprise made the film all the more hard-hitting. On that same basis, I am choosing in this review not to disclose what Tell Me Who I Am eventually reveals. However, the fact is that the Lewis brothers have already aired their story in a book published in 2013 and just before seeing this film I read a newspaper article which gave everything away. I am trying to ignore that in rating this work although personally I found that its effectiveness was somewhat weakened by how much of the story was already known to me.

 

What can be said safely is that the Lewis brothers are now in their fifties but still haunted by the consequences of what happened when they were eighteen. It was then that Alex suffered an accident and went into a coma. On coming round he immediately recognised his brother Marcus but otherwise suffered total amnesia. Consequently, he had no idea who he was and did not recognise the woman by his bedside who was his mother.  The first half of Tell Me Who I Am finds the brothers speaking in turn and telling us how their lives were changed by this. It was a situation in which Alex relied on Marcus as the only person he felt he could trust to re-educate him and to fill him in on the life that he could no longer remember. This is fascinating material and all the more so because it is rooted in a complex subject, the special affinity known only to twins.

 

The film then moves on to explore secrets that had been hidden and raises the ethical issue of whether or not Marcus was right to protect Alex by concealing so much for so long. The last section of this three-part film finds the brothers opening up to one another more fully than ever before and the press notes assure us that here we are watching the real thing and no reconstruction. Nevertheless how much was genuinely new is unclear given that most of what we learn here had already been disclosed in their book (it’s odd too that there is no mention in the film of a younger brother since I am given to understand that the book referred to him as sharing the same experience as his two older siblings). In his approach as director Ed Perkins is more consistent than was the case with Three Identical Strangers in incorporating wordless dramatisations to illustrate the past events being recalled and the firm establishment of that style made me find such scenes more acceptable here. Even so, my own preference now is for the earlier film which I recently saw again and admired more on a second viewing. But for those who come to Tell Me Who I Am without too much foreknowledge it will prove a compelling watch and their discovery then of its deeper concerns will add to its impact.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Marcus Lewis, Alex Lewis, Andrew Caley, Kathleen Ray, Evan Milton, Luke Mulhurn, Thomas Mulhurn.

 

Dir Ed Perkins, Pro Simon China, Ph Erik Alexander Wilson and Patrick Smith, Pro Des Alex Walker, Ed David Charap, Music Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, Costumes Rebecca Gore.

 

Lightbox/Netflix-Netflix.
85 mins. UK. 2019. Rel: 18 October 2019. No Cert.