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Tell Me Who I Am

Imagine waking up in an unfamiliar room, surrounded by people you don’t know. Disoriented and scared, you look over and lock eyes with your twin brother. The realization hits you that you know exactly who he is, and everything may be okay. Then, you notice the sobbing woman by your bed. After a moment you look back at your twin and say “Who is that?” After a brief moment your brother simply says “That is our mother.”

That exact scenario that plays out in the opening scene of Ed Perkins’s harrowing documentary TELL ME WHO I AM. In 1982, when he was just 18 years old, Alex Lewis was in a catastrophic motorcycle accident. As he became airborne, his helmet flew off, and he landed on his head. He suffered brain damage as a result, and lost virtually all of his memory. He didn’t know where he was, or who he was. He didn’t remember anything about his life, apart from one key component; he remembered his twin brother, Marcus.

As Alex returns home, developmentally, he has regressed back to childhood. He doesn’t understand the basic constructs of life, things people take for granted. He not only had to be reacquainted to everyone he knew, and everything he owned, but he had to once again learn how to function as a human being. He was devastated, and felt utterly alone. Luckily, he had Marcus by his side. Marcus helped him piece his life back together. Marcus attempted to fill in the gaps as best as he could, and helped mold Alex into a functioning member of society. Alex thought it was strange that he and his brother were forced to sleep in a shed away from the main house, but didn’t really question it. It was even more odd that they were often locked out of the home, and there was limited interaction between the siblings and their parents.

Alex became obsessed with photographs, and used these to create his own memories. Marcus would give him basic information based on what was in the picture, and Alex would then formulate a “memory” based on what he could see, and the story that Marcus told him. In this way, he was able to reach some semblance of peace, though he still felt as if he were a stranger in his own life.

TELL ME WHO I AM is heart wrenching exploration of what it means to be a twin, and the relevance of truth. As the film progresses, we learn that the idyllic childhood that Alex had constructed was far from factual. Marcus, conscious of his brother’s precariously fragile state, helped perpetuate a multitude of lies, and realized that he could help Alex live the life he never could.

The relationship between the brothers is very complex, particularly when the truth of their childhood is revealed. Unable to deal with the horrific circumstances of his own existence, Marcus believed that he was doing Alex a favor by shielding him from the tragedy that had befallen them. On the opposite side of the coin, Alex felt as if he were being cheated from his own memories, and therefore, his life. He felt as if a huge piece of him was missing, and the one person he trusted, the one person who could help him, refused to do so.

TELL ME WHO I AM is certainly not an easy watch. The devastating truth is both infuriating and sad, and you can’t help but think of what you would do if you were in either brother’s shoes. It is a thought-provoking and highly emotional viewing experience, one that leaves with you with far more questions than answers. The raw intensity of the catastrophic confessions is difficult to watch, particularly when a conversation that was decades in the making unfolds as the cameras roll. Though you have been on a journey with these two men over the better course of an hour, you still feel as if you are privy to a private conversation that should have unfolded beyond the bright lights. At the same time, it’s rare to witness such a genuine and sincere exchange, and helps craft the documentary into one of the more unforgettable films in the Netflix repertoire.

TELL ME WHO I AM- B+

RATED: TV-MA

RUN TIME: 1h 25min

GENRE: Documentary, Drama, Mystery

STARRING: Andrew Caley, Alex Lewis, Marcus Lewis

DIRECTOR: Ed Perkins

WRITERS: Alex Lewis, Joanna Hodgkin, Marcus Lewis

GRADE: B+

Brian Miller
Film Critic
Based out of Central New York, Brian Miller is a film critic who works in television, radio, and print. Providing passionate and energetic takes on every movie he sees, he looks for the best in a movie, not the worst.