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Fantastic Fest cap: I Am Here

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Before our screening started, festival programmer Brian Kelley mentioned that he “couldn’t imagine the fest without this film.”

At first glance, “I Am Here” seems like an unusual candidate for Fantastic Fest. Danish director Anders Morgenthaler takes a serious look at the power of a woman’s biological clock and the drive to be a mother at any cost in this heavy drama. It isn’t typical genre fare, but it’s also far more complicated than it first appears.

Kim Basinger gives a staggeringly brilliant performance as Maria, a woman with a very successful career and a loving husband named Peter (Sebastian Schipper). After suffering a near-fatal miscarriage (her eighth over the course of a decade), her doctor informs her that it would be irresponsible to continue trying to have children because of her age and the extreme damage to her uterus.

No matter how rich or how successful she has become, nothing satiates her desire to have a child. When Peter recognizes that she is not going to accept the doctor’s advice, he leaves her, throwing even more emotional turmoil into her life.

Even though this may sound like a bad made-for-TV movie, it doesn’t come across that way at all. Basinger’s performance is so vulnerable and honest, that you just accept the fact that her dead baby frequently speaks to her from beyond the grave, calming her down and pushing her towards the next step of adoption. Sort of.

There’s no question that a normal person would probably consider adoption at this point, but Maria has developed other ideas. She decides that she wants to try and buy a baby on the black market and sets off on the most unlikely road trip you’ll ever see, eventually picking up a hitchhiking, drug-addicted dwarf named Christian (Jordan Prentice) to assist her. Even though they have different desires, they’re kindred spirits in many ways. To reveal more about their journey would venture into serious spoiler territory.

The film ultimately plays like a punch to the gut, with Basinger displaying a raw desperation that is rarely seen on screen. It’s one of the great roles of her career and certainly one of the most complex. While I suspect that some audience members will debate the merits of the ending, the overall experience has been the best of the festival so far for me.

“I Am Here” screens again at 11:00 a.m. Sept. 25.