First-time writer-director Jocelyn Towne takes an admirably novel stab at familial dysfunction in her father-daughter drama “I Am I,” but she proves unable to keep the film’s originality from rapidly curdling into preposterousness.
Towne stars as Rachel, a woman in her 30s who is as long and thin as a swan’s neck and just as fragile. When her mother dies and she chances upon her long-estranged, dementia-afflicted father, Gene (Kevin Tighe), Rachel seizes the chance to exploit Gene’s particular mental degeneration, which leaves him unable to remember past his early 30s. To get to know him better, she visits her father in the guise of her mother, Sarah.
Conveniently, the version of Sarah that Rachel impersonates is married to her second husband, and thus any semblance of romance between father and daughter is preempted. Still, Towne toys with an array of ick factors without fully developing her characters or nailing down the tone, rendering scenes like one in which Rachel (as Sarah) demands that Gene push her on a playground swing to be far creepier than probably intended.
It’s disappointing that Towne has nothing interesting to say about her character’s daddy issues. She merely repeats the diagnosis again and again. Thus, Rachel’s exotic madness is revealed to be as common as a cold.
“I Am I”
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes.
Playing: At Sundance Sunset Cinema, Los Angeles. Also on VOD.