One of my mother’s worst nightmares is to have people break into her house in her absence, erase all traces of trespassing, and just squat—she has a pretty vivid imagination. In Willy Berliner’s I’m in Here, a man experiences a twisted version of that scenario. What ensues is a hilarious, cringe-inducing comedy about a regular guy trying to avoid confrontation at all cost.
Don (Dave Hanson), sees a family of strangers moving into his house claiming to have bought it. The thing is, he had no plans of selling it. Both parties agree to cohabitate until the mix-up gets resolved, but as his pushy house guests acclimate themselves more and more to his personal space, Don just keeps…accommodating.
Berliner was interested in how far people will go to avoid confrontation, and I’m in Here is an extreme exploration of that idea. Don starts off understanding and genial, but the invaders keep taking advantage of him, subsuming his life piece by piece. We all await the point of no return, for Don to be pushed to his breaking point, but instead of putting his foot down, and subsequently creating a conflict, the lead goes all the way. He almost erases himself, his own existence, all for the purpose of avoiding the inevitable.
From the kernel that is the character Don, Berliner came up with this rather original concept—achievable on a low budget, and with using only a single location. The audience along with the lead ends up being a victim of the circumstances with a total lack of control. The darkly funny tone pushes boundaries—those of Don’s naturally, but also of the audience. The discomfort is definitely shared through the screen, and the atmosphere creates a weird unpleasant feeling that sticks. What that man goes through is so awful that we can’t help but cope by laughing (when not cringing) while wondering how the story will unfold.
Using a very dramatic score and thriller-like camerawork, Berliner perfectly showcases the anxiety of his character with a dark humor. Slow zooms and intimate close-ups lend this absurd story more powerful impact than might be imagined. The slow-motion shots trap us in Don’s passivity, while Dave Hanson’s great performance and perfect facial expressions impart a mix of sorrow and anxiety that carry the film.
I’m in Here had its first audience at Slamdance earlier this year before being screened at other prestigious festivals ahead of its online premiere today. Berliner is now working on his first feature, staying in the same tone, centered on an extremely quiescent person.