'I Don't Know Who You Are' Honours Those Who Fall Through the Cracks

Directed by M. H. Murray

Starring Mark Clennon, Anthony Diaz, Nat Patricia Manuel, Deragh Campbell, Victoria Long, Kevin A. Courtney, Michael Hogan

Photo courtesy of Vortex Media

BY Courtney SmallPublished Jun 3, 2024


In a country that prides itself on its universal healthcare system, it's easy for Canadians to forget that not everyone has the same access to the medications they desperately need. M. H. Murray's sensational debut feature, I Don't Know Who You Are, brings this harsh reality to vivid life.

Taking place over the course of one tense weekend, Murray's film follows Benjamin (Mark Clennon), a saxophonist and singer in Toronto, as he frantically attempts to raise $900 for HIV-preventive PEP treatment.

Already on a tight budget and sending any extra funds to help support his elderly parents, the hefty prescription price tag is just one of several unexpected gut-punches that the musician must find the strength to overcome. After a romantic dinner with potential new beau Malcolm (Anthony Diaz) doesn't go as planned, Benjamin decides to drown his sorrows at a friend's party. Unfortunately, the presence of his ex, Oscar (Kevin A. Courtney), at the bash with his new partner only sends him further down a drunken spiral.

Sullen and inebriated, Benjamin's night goes from a depressing episode to a full on nightmare when he is sexually assaulted by a stranger (Michael Hogan) on the way home.    

Taking his best friend Ariel's (Nat Patricia Manuel) advice to go to a clinic, it's highly recommended that, in spite of his negative test results, Benjamin start taking PEP, a combination of HIV medications, within 72 hours to help substantially reduce the risk of infection. In a desperate need for cash and with the clock ticking, Benjamin races to reach out to friends and acquaintances in hopes of raising the funds needed.

The frantic and tense nature of Benjamin's quest creates the edge-of-your-seat anxieties reminiscent of Josh and Benny Safdie's Uncut Gems. While the latter revolves around a man trying to cheat the system, I Don't Know Who You Are shows that it's far more difficult to simply exist within it. Struggling to stay afloat in a tsunami of bureaucracy, Benjamin's predicament becomes even more challenging when one factors in the emotional anguish weighing him down.

Clennon's masterful performance captures the internal sense of shame and anger that Benjamin wrestles with. Each person he hits up for money, including old friend Agnes (Deragh Campbell), whose husband is affluent and racist, is another uncomfortable minefield to navigate. Unable to express why he needs the cash, as doing so forces him to relive the attack with each retelling, he hides his open emotional wounds while slowly losing his sense of self in the process.

This internal conflict manifests in a powerful moment during a concert when he sings, "I'm not sure I remember how to be myself." While Benjamin grapples with how to move forward, Murray's film constantly shows that the musician has people around him to prop him up every step of the way.

Rather than simply making a film about trauma, I Don't Know Who You Are evolves into a touching film about trust. As the audience reflects on those who fall through the cracks of the healthcare system, Murray shows how vital support networks are to many, especially struggling artists. His film does a wonderful job of presenting the various connections Benjamin has with those he encounters. It's the bonds of friendship that will ultimately help to keep Benjamin's boat from capsizing during the storm.

While there are a few scenes where the plot falls into some predictable beats, mostly revolving around Malcolm's secret, these do little to detract from the overall power of the film. Pulling from his own experiences, Murray constructs a moving portrait of a man who may have slipped through the cracks, but whose friends refuse to let him fall.

Filled with humanity and emotion, I Don't Know Who You Are is a powerful and resonating work. A film that asks us to open our eyes and hearts to those who go unseen while suffering in plain sight.

(Vortex Media)

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