Review: 'I'm Not Here' as vacant as its title

J.K. Simmons stars as a deeply depressed man in story that goes nowhere

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
J.K. Simmons in "I'm Not Here."

J.K. Simmons battles the demons of alcoholism, regret and eternal darkness in “I’m Not Here,” a slog of a story with the feel of a student film.

Simmons stars as Steve, who as the movie opens has a gun to his head. We soon learn why. In flashback, we see how young Stevie (played by “Young Sheldon’s” Iain Armitage) was introduced to booze at an early age by his alcoholic father (Max Greenfield), which helped lead to his divorce from Stevie’s mother (Mandy Moore).

Years later, young adult Steve (Sebastian Stan) is fighting his own addiction issues, which derail his relationship with his wife Karen (Maika Monroe), who pays him back by sleeping with his best friend (David Wexler). He also encounters tragedy when he loses his son in a traffic accident.

This symphony of sadness all plays out in modern Steve’s head as he lumbers around his place on his 60th birthday, clad only in a bathrobe, avoiding phone calls from bill collectors and contemplating suicide. (Simmons’ scenes look as though they were shot in a single day.) The power to his place is about to be shut off, he’s warned, not that he has any lights on anyway. The film’s title comes from the abrupt outgoing message on Steve’s answering machine, and it also describes the mental state of a man who has long since checked out of life.  

Co-writer and director Michelle Schumacher, who is married to Simmons, doles out the symbolism like a 100-level psych student. The period details aren’t convincing in any of the film’s eras, and the ambiguous finish is more harmful than hopeful to viewers looking for an ending to this sad bastard story.

Schumacher is clearly working out some issues, but “I’m Not Here” just isn’t there.

‘I’m Not Here’


Not rated: Language, sexual situations, adult themes

Running time: 80 minutes