With enormous crowds swirling all over Austin, Texas, sometimes it's to your benefit to pass up a more anticipated screening at SXSW for a smaller, more intimate, one. And after catching Robert Mockler's first credited feature, Like Me, I was grateful for taking a shot on this unknown title. Blending together elements of experimental filmmaking with a traditional narrative core, Mockler stands out against the other directorial debuts at this year's SXSW festival.
The film opens with a lonely teenage sociopath named Kiya (Addison Timlin) holding up a drive-thru market clerk and broadcasting the entire robbery live on her social media feed. From there she continues on a crime spree that she uses to connect with her followers online, and results in the kidnapping of Marshall (Larry Fessenden), a pedophile hotel owner she lures into captivity. Kiya begins to interact with Marshall more and more and the human connection may or may not be enough to stop her villainous behavior.
Robert Mockler's thriller unfolds in a David Lynch-like manner, intense from the get-go and increasingly creepy as the story progresses. Like Me solidifies Mockler's voice and vision as a progressive filmmaker, and someone I plan to keep on my radar in the future. While some may refute the narrative structure of the film, claiming Mockler's obsession with style over substance as a detriment to the finished product, I'd combat those claims by addressing the story's phenomenal ability to develop its characters. It's no easy feat to turn an admitted pedophile such as Marshall's character into a sympathetic figure. Yet, Like Me plays along to an unpredictable beat with a unique approach to story-telling that's both unconventional and effective. Addison Timlin delivers a spellbinding lead performance that's immaculately counter-balanced by her co-star, Larry Fessenden. Like Me appeals to all the senses and propels director Robert Mockler to the forefront of the indie scene by making one of the most memorable impressions at this year's SXSW festival.