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Tell Me Who I Am

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Tell Me Who I Am Movie Poster Image
Intense docu about twin brothers has violence, cursing.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 85 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Sometimes a kindness and a cruelty can be one and the same thing. People who truly love each other can forgive each other. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Out of presumed kindness, a young man tried to spare his sibling disturbing recollections of their shared past.

Violence

Adults sexually abused kids. Graphic details.

Sex

A man in his 50s discloses that he and his twin brother were sexually abused by their mother and numerous men she turned the kids over to until they reached the age of 14. Touching and masturbation are described. A man recalls that owing to memory problems, he lost his virginity twice to the same girl.

Language

"F--k" and "s--t."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tell Me Who I Am is a documentary that requires a spoiler alert in order to advise on the delayed revelation of sexual content. The documentary is about childhood sexual abuse as it describes the unthinkable treatment of twin boys by their mother over a period of many years. Although some is left to the viewer's imagination, a brief description of the abuse comes at the end as the twins, now in their 50s, discuss the effects their childhood secret has had on them. Touching and masturbation are described. The story is dramatically broadened by the fact that one twin had a memory-erasing motorcycle accident as an older teen, leaving the other twin to decide whether or not to reintroduce the painful memories to his recovering sibling. Language includes "f--k" and "s--t."  

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What's the story?

TELL ME WHO I AM is a documentary based on a book of the same title by twin brothers who grew up privileged in a large home outside of London. The drama begins when, at 18, Alex Lewis has been sent into a coma by a brain injury sustained in a motorcycle accident. When he wakes in the hospital, the first person he sees is his twin, Marcus, whom he immediately recognizes. Apart from that familiar face, he remembers nothing, not his own name, his mother, his home, what a bicycle is, or that he lost his virginity to his girlfriend, another person he can't remember. Because he trusts his twin, Alex accepts Marcus' as a tour guide to their shared past and his descriptions of their lives, their parents, and their childhood. Their father is depicted as a vile, angry, and distant figure, and the mother a kooky social butterfly who made them laugh. After the death of both parents, the twins clear out the huge house and Alex first encounters sex toys and other indications that perhaps Marcus has been hiding something from him. In part two, Marcus explains his 30-year effort to save Alex from the anguish of remembering sexual abuse at the hands of their mother. In part three, the twins talk about healing themselves by sharing what they've been holding back for decades. Be advised that graphic descriptions of child sexual abuse follow. 

Is it any good?

This documentary is an extraordinary piece of filmmaking. Director Ed Perkins recognized in the book Tell Me Who I Am by Alex and Marcus Lewis a horror story almost too strange and dramatically rich to be true. The sense of impending doom is skillfully established in Tell Me Who I Am's early moments -- a memory-wiping motorcycle accident is recalled, and a kindly brother helps his twin re-enter his forgotten life. But is the story he offers true? What is Marcus hiding from his brain-injured brother? This set of actual facts are ripe for actors and a fictionalized script, but it's unlikely that any other film about these two men could be better or more moving than this one. Because of its disturbing content this documentary is best for mature teens and up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the influence of parents and siblings on the lives of kids. In what ways can you imagine that bad and destructive parents can harm their children for life?

  • Do you think it was kind of Marcus to keep the trauma of their past from his recovering brother? Why or why not?

  • The brothers in Tell Me Who I Am have reasons to be angry with each other. How important do you think it is to show forgiveness and acceptance in life? Why?

Movie details

  • On DVD or streaming: October 18, 2019
  • Director: Ed Perkins
  • Studio: Netflix
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Run time: 85 minutes
  • MPAA rating: NR
  • Last updated: November 06, 2019

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