#TIFF23: “I DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE” REVIEW
By David Baldwin
Benjamin (Mark Clennon, TIFF Rising Star ’23) has not been having the best night. His new boyfriend Malcolm (Anthony Diaz) rejected his sexual advances, and the party he attends afterwards dredges up memories best forgotten. He stumbles home drunk, makes a bad decision and ends up being sexually assaulted by a random stranger. Benjamin thankfully does not contract HIV, but needs to start taking PEP immediately to prevent it potentially coming later. He does not have health insurance though, nor the $900 he needs to buy the drugs outright.
All of this happens in the first twenty minutes of I DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE, and the next hour or so is spent watching Benjamin frantically race to collect as much money as he can from his “friends” in order to pay for the PEP treatment. We learn choice details about Benjamin along the way, alongside the highs and lows of the people orbiting around him. It is episodic in a sense, yet feels gritty, harrowing and authentic – the side of Toronto that only its less wealthy residents know exists.
While it left me with a few questions (like why the Film suggests there is only one shabby pharmacy anywhere near Benjamin’s apartment), I found Writer/Director M.H. Murray’s direction to be confident and assured. He has a steady hand and crafts a film that even veteran directors would find challenging to create. It has its flaws yet makes for a bold and audacious feature debut; one that suggests Murray will be a talent to keep our eyes on.
Even better is Clennon, also making his feature debut, whose terrific performance alternates between riveting and aggravating. He spends much of the Film silent, using his eyes and emotions to guide Benjamin’s frightening journey. It makes for a number of great character moments, and tells us more than words ever could. It is a star-making turn no doubt, and is complemented by rock solid supporting work from Diaz and Nat Manuel who plays his friend Ariel. I wish they both had more to do, but when you are being overshadowed by a towering performance like Clennon’s, maybe having less to do is not so much of a bad thing.
I DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE screens at TIFF ’23:
Thursday, September 7 at 9:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox
Friday, September 8 at 10:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox