Gaspar Antillo's Nobody Knows I'm Here (2020) Depicts Need to be Known with Glitter and Grace

Memo stands by lake.
Memo (Jorge Garcia) returns from one of his home "visits." Photo: Netflix. 

The need to be known, loved, and accepted without conditions is a basic human need. The Hebrew Bible even marks it, along with getting food and sustenance, in Genesis 2:25: "Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame." Far from being a titillating visual, in this context, being naked signifies feeling loved, accepted, and free from disapproval. Gaspar Antillo's surreal-tinted drama, Nobody Knows I'm Here, shows the damage that can last a lifetime when that acceptance is denied. 
Memo (Jorge Garcia; "Lost") lives with his Uncle Braulio (Luis Gnecco; Neruda) on a sheep farm near the Llanquihue commune in Chile. Memo lives as a recluse, staying hidden whenever visitors come to the farm and rarely speaking to even his uncle. He makes a regular pastime of "visiting" houses when no one is home, walking into the rooms, touching the family's possessions. Despite his large size, which comes in handy for the work he does lifting bundles of sheep hides, Memo tries as hard as he can to make himself unnoticeable and small. 

Yet underneath this aloof personality hides the heart of an artist and the imagination of a poet. He lovingly sews and decorates an elaborate, decorative robe that he wears in moments of solitude. He paints his fingernails in glittery shades. And in these moments, he recalls memories of a time when he was young and discovered for his musical talent but rejected for his appearance. And as we get to know Memo, the story of what happened to his childhood dream of being a singer is uncovered one painful moment at a time. After Uncle Braulio goes to bed, Memo turns off the opera music and dances to his own beat.

The status quo is interrupted by the appearance of a cute, quirky woman named Marta (Millaray Lobos; Medea), who sees through his gruff manner when she notices his blue fingernail polish. With patience and fortitude, Marta decides to befriend Memo. But that friendship will force Memo to decide if he can risk letting someone in and showing who he is on the inside again.

Memo and Marta meet
Marta (Millaray Lobos) and Memo (Jorge Garcia) meet. Photo: Netflix. 

Nobody Knows I'm Here is the first feature-length film for director Gaspar Antillo (best known for directing numerous music videos) and is the first original Chilean film available on Netflix. While the conflict explored by Memo lacks originality (many wannabe stars get rejected for having a not-perfect appearance every day), the character of Memo and the style in which his story is told add the needed X-factor that makes the film worth watching. Like Alma Har'el's (who also made a name for herself directing music videos) did for Honey Boy, another outstanding movie about childhood trauma, the artistry lies in the telling, rather than what is told. Perhaps it's these directors' experience directing music videos that adds that extra artistry to their films.

The Chilean landscape creates a backdrop of uneasy calm. The beauty of the lakeside views and the solace of living off the grid are undercut by the hiding place Memo has created for himself. At times it feels safe and comfortable, but Memo's longing for something more turn it his life of solitude into something more like a prison. His only salvation is the world of his dreams. When Memo allows his imagination to run wild, the room turns aglow with a pink haze and Memo's fantasies run wild.  

Memo's colorful imagination adds a touch of surrealism to the story, as well. The color pink offers a hint that events may not be happening in reality exactly as presented. In one particularly unsettling scene, Memo's feelings so overwhelm him that he vomits an excessive pool of pink glittery liquid onto the floor. Is Memo really throwing up pink glitter? Moments like these add whimsy to the telling and leave viewers to interpret as they will. After all, with someone like Memo, the dream world and reality often intertwine.   

Marta shows Memo video of him singing.
Marta shows Memo video of him singing. Photo: Netflix.

Jorge Garcia gives a convincing performance as the repressed Memo, despite the fact that he has barely any dialogue. Forced as a child to hide his voice from the public eye, Memo uses his weight as body armor. Besides the carousel of emotions that can be seen in his eyes, his other instrument of expression is his body. Moments of anger result in violence towards inanimate objects; moments of joy manifest in jaunty dance moves. It's a very physical performance, and Garcia brings the same charm he did to playing Hurley in the TV series "Lost." In a particularly compelling scene, the physical interaction between Memo and Marta plays out like a carefully choreographed dance, showing in their deliberate, slow movements the pain and patience it takes to get Memo to open up to physical touch. 

Marta tries to spoon Memo
Marta is finally allowed to hold Memo. Photo: Netflix. 

The original music score, created by Carlos Cabezas, contributes to the overall mood of the story with a moody synth score, as well. 

While Memo must overcome some painful moments, Nobody Knows I'm Here provides a satisfying, feel-good ending. 

Final Score: 3.5 out of 5

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