I’m No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)
CIFF 2019 Best Film winner I’m No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is an absorbing story from Fernando Frias that combines violence, music and dance in a uniquely gritty drama. It won’t exactly inspire a new wave of haircuts, but it meets the challenge of authenticity with grace.
Flitting between Monterrey, Mexico and Queens, New York City, we follow 17-year-old Ulises, leader of Los Terkos – a gang of confident outfits, trims, and, most importantly, shared love for slowed Columbian cumbia dancing. Once Ulises becomes involved in a violent mix-up with a local cartel, he must flee to the United States in order to survive, though language barriers, poverty and an incessant inner resistance does not make his new life away from his family any easier.
Juan Daniel Garcia Treviño (who also won Best Actor at CIFF 2019) turns out a wonderful debut performance in the lead role of what is, for the most part, a one-man show. The validity of Ulises’s confidence, discontent and jadedness is felt consistently throughout the film, leaving the viewer undecided as to his likeability or pity. But this complexity makes Ulises genuine, human and sympathetic.
The music and dancing is vibrant and paced, though a little too obvious in places where lyrics of the soundtrack directly describing the scene can leave the story ingenuous and frustrated.
But the idea behind the Cholombianos, their loyalties and inimitable tastes, their creativity and brevity, accompanies the harsh manner of their upbringing well and makes the potential of their diminished identity difficult to watch at times. The threatened purge of an urban tribe seems poignant in a world of dubious acceptance.
The audience becomes stranded with Ulises as he struggles in the US with the longing to return home. Frias’s sense of intended isolation is felt strongly throughout the film. I’m No Longer Here’s strength, as is the case with many successful indie flicks, comes from the simplicity of its story and the believability of character.
I’m No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is released digitally on Netflix on 27th May 2020.
Watch the trailer for I’m No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) here: