'I'm No Longer Here' Review: A touching narrative of self discovery in the midst of tribulations

'I'm No Longer Here' Review: A touching narrative of self discovery in the midst of tribulations
Juan Daniel Garcia Trevino as Ulises Sampiero (IMDb)

Spoilers for 'I'm No Longer Here'

Whenever there is a coming-of-age story revolving around an adolescent protagonist, we have certain expectations in mind. For starters, we expect that the character will be the classic despicable teenager transcending into a lovable adult. But director Fernando Frias de la Parra breaks those clichés and beautifully so.

'I'm No Longer Here' or 'Ya No Estoy Aqui' in Spanish follows the journey of Ulises Sampiero (Juan Daniel Garcia Trevino). Ulises is anything but your typical 17-year old boy. Yes, he is a complete rebel, for sure, a troublemaker, the round peg in a square hole. But he isn’t anything mainstream. He leads the small gang of Terkos in the urban neighborhoods of Monterrey, Mexico with his group of teenage entourage but he has one passion that surpasses all — dancing!

And not any kind of modern-day dance form, but the ethnic cumbia, which mixes traditional rhythms and slow pop. Ulises and his gang dream of becoming the "it" dancing group of the city and amid all their anti-social antics, they never forget to groove or even participate in local dance competitions. Ulises' life couldn't be called great but he was happy with whatever he had — his friends, his passion, and his hometown, until a drug war of local gangs go wrong, killing members of his ally gangs.

From that moment on, Ulises' life goes haywire. Escaping to New York City might seem like a “better option” to many. But not this quiet boy from Monterrey! He finds himself lost in the vastness and complexity of New York City. His struggles here are not just of survival but of identity, of retaining his passion and discovering himself.

Shuffling from place to place, sleeping on the streets and having no job could drive anyone out of their mind but Ulises fights on. Despite all the challenges, he finds his own moment to sway and groove to cumbia, listen to the music player his girlfriend from Monterrey hands him on his way out of the town. In an alien land, among strangers, he manages to hold onto to that one thing that he can call his own.

Through the constant flashbacks of his life in Monterrey, with his friends, Frias de la Parra perfectly captures the element of nostalgia for Ulises as he tries to get a hold of his reality in New York. The story of 'I'm No Longer Here' also explores the struggles of an immigrant, world politics, identity issues of a teenager in a foreign land, and the deep sense of ethnicity. But what stands out is how one holds onto their passion while they tread the tough road of self-discovery.

It is indeed a surprise that this movie comes as a second venture from its director because the skillful storytelling speaks like the work of a veteran. By capturing the smallest nuances of the characters, mostly Ulises, in artistic frames, Fernando Frias de la Parra gives the story an art-film like treatment in a touching narrative.

'I'm No Longer Here' aka 'Ya No Estoy Aqui'  is currently streaming on Netflix.

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