• Sebastian Mann

Tell Me Who I Am (2020) Review

A still from the film Tell Me Who I Am, with a woman in a field

Italian writer-director Luca Caserta’s latest is a distressing tale of living with trauma.

We open on a disheveled homeless woman (Elisa Bertato), living amongst the ruins of a dilapidated building. She is dressed in dowdy clothing, a long skirt and a worn jumper. It’s not clear how long she’s been there, or even what year it is. At night, she lays on a bare mattress, clutching onto a sturdy steak knife for protection.

Bertato carries the weight of trauma in the way she moves

She is living in the ruins of herself. Two men show up (Jacopo Squizzato and Daniele Profeta), vulgarly discussing women, and their presence, intrusion on her space, triggers a dormant trauma. Flickering to life like old celluloid, scenes from the young woman’s life slowly piece themselves back together, as apparitions of people she once knew appear and disappear from behind doorways into empty rooms.

Bertato (who co-wrote the film with Caserta) is very much the star of the show. With minimal dialogue, she carries the weight of trauma in the way she moves, going between rooms and stumbling through forests as if she were sleepwalking.

Caserta’s editing is quick, and at times disorientating. The central scene of violence is shockingly succinct, and catches you off-guard. It’s intense and unsettling, over as quickly as it began.

There are a few scenes we’ve seen before and a couple of ideas that are a little tired by now, but it never feels pointlessly derivative. For the most part, it’s clever about its influences, refashioning them into something new.