“Dear Vista, I’ve been meaning to write this note for a long time, but as you know, I’m not very good at expressing myself. So I’ll just say this. I miss your smile. I would say that I hope this note finds you well, but as these things go, that won’t be the case.” “Before I Disappear” (2014) is an Oscar-winning short film written and directed by Shawn Christenson. Despite negative reviews on its storyline, the overall cinematography and soundtrack choice is remarkably put together.
A troubled young man, Richie, decides to end his life once and for all; however, his suicide attempt is interrupted by an urgent call from his sister, whom he hasn’t talked to in years, asking him to babysit her precocious daughter Sophia. The two embark on an unusual adventure in the dark parts of Manhattan, from bowling alleys to drug houses; places that Richie is all too familiar with. Sophia is taken back home; however, her mother isn’t there, leaving Richie to take care of the girl for the night. Thus, their New York adventure continues.
With opposite personalities, Sophia and Richie somehow create a bond that nobody would have expected. After attempting suicide twice, Richie spends the rest of the night having hallucinations and passes out from the pills he takes and his poorly wrapped slit wrists. Not only does Sophia help Richie through it all, but she shows him a new outlook on life that convinces him to stay alive.
Richie, played by director and writer Christensen, maintains a monotone character throughout the film; however, he plays Richie well and keeps a consistent personality for his character. Fatima Ptacek (who also is the voice of Dora) plays the role of Sophia almost perfectly. Just as she did in the short film, “Curfew,” Fatima’s character starts off as a goody-two-shoes who focuses on school and nothing more, but as the film goes on she learns that there’s more to life than just school. Although the roles may not have been played by the best actors, the crisp, colorful cinematography and upbeat yet soothing soundtrack bring the film together to create something beautiful.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.