A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that I'm No Longer Here is a Spanish language drama with English subtitles. The film tells the story of a teen forced by gang violence to leave his native Monterrey, Mexico and emigrate to the borough of Queens, New York City. The action takes place in both cities, intercutting present and past (in flashbacks). Dance as a means of both artistic expression and communal connection (specifically "cumbia,” a Latin dance originated in Colombia) is integral to the story. Violence impacts the hero's journey with a bloody drive-by multi-victim gang shooting, teens abducted at gunpoint, chases, bullying, and the threat of gang revenge. Profanity and insults are frequent, including such words and phrases as "f--k," "s--t," "d--k," "p---y," "j--king off," "a--hole," "c--ks." Characters, including underage kids, drink alcohol, smoke marijuana, get drunk, sniff an unidentified substance, and smoke cigarettes.
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What's the story?
Ulises (Juan Daniel Garcia Trevino), a highly original, colorful 17-year-old, loves to dance in I'M NO LONGER HERE. Steeped from early childhood in the rhythms and movements of "cumbia" a stylized Latin dance from Colombia, Ulises leads a band of energetic, fun-loving teens and kids in his community of Monterrey, Mexico. It's a "gang" of sorts, but a nonviolent gang, its members rootless but devoted to Ulises, to one another, and to their distinctive music. They roam the streets of Monterrey where other more violent, warring drug gangs flourish as well. After Ulises inadvertently runs afoul of one of the city’s most violent cartels, his life is in danger and he's forced to leave the country. He makes his way to the United States -- Borough of Queens, New York City. Though he's alone and speaks no English, he temporarily finds menial work and a place to live. However, Ulises's "unique appearance," quiet manner, and "oddball" music don't sit well with the local Hispanic young men. It isn’t long before job, shelter, and money are gone; he’s on his own in an unforgiving place. A chance encounter with Lin (Xueming Angelina Chen), a Chinese girl with a bright smile and an open heart, brings temporary solace and shelter, but not for long. The challenges to both his survival and his carefully nurtured identity continue to mount.
Is it any good?
A remarkably soulful lead performance, a heartfelt story about the loss of home and community, along with stunning camerawork, combine to create an original work with lasting resonance. Juan Daniel Garcia Trevino, in his first movie, is quietly devastating; Ulises is a strikingly original character. His kid-and-teen "gang mates," all acting novices, too, hold their own with vibrant spirit. Transitions from present to past to an even earlier past are confusing at first, but there's a certain rhythm and look to the format that becomes clear as I'm No Longer Here moves forward. Director Fernando Frias's efforts at authenticity make the film seem slow, even unfocused at times, but he mostly accomplishes what he set out to do. An atypical young man in danger of losing his individuality, his survival, and his place in the world is always worth checking out.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's two cities as "characters" in I'm No Longer Here. How did each location impact the story? How did the residents of such different environments embody the issues Ulises faced? What distinguishing features of both cities made each so specific?
Immigration and deportation are currently important issues in the U.S. How does this movie personalize the plight of fleeing immigrants? Did getting to know Ulises and watching his story unfold heighten your empathy for him and others like him?
Think about the film's transitions from Monterrey to Queens and back again. Since the viewer was transported from one to the other without any onscreen help (i.e., written dates or places), what techniques did the filmmaking team use to distinguish the cities from one another? Talk about lighting, production design, music.
What is meant by the movie's title I'm No Longer Here? How was the Ulises at the end of the film different from the Ulises audiences met at the beginning?
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