A haunting, sharply comedic tale of one man's craven manipulation of public tragedy, I Was There Too is a claustrophobic morality play, or in Darius's case (played by DeMorge Brown), a trap of his own making. Estranged from his daughter Max (Sunni Salazar), Darius is a father on the sidelines. Frustrated. We're introduced to his character arguing with referees at Max's soccer game, his outburst mollified by his ex-wife's new partner, Eric (played Eric Dadourian), with a weary sense of responsibility. "You can't come anymore, you know that, right?" Faced with the potential of being pushed further away from his daughter in an increasingly decaying orbit, Darius fabricates a story of narrowly escaping a mass shooting late one night, breathlessly describing it to Eric and Beth (Beth Lisick) at their doorstep.
Once inside, there's a sublime moment that occurs in-camera during a pivotal scene. Adrenaline still racing, Darius's pulse softens as he recalls a fond memory of his daughter Max's birthday, shared in the same living room he once again finds himself a guest in; Albeit, a self-imposed one. A bead of sweat rolls down his right temple at the exact moment he looks up at Beth for what sympathy he can wrestle from her concerned expression. It's a disturbing moment of serendipity, sweat gathering on the nervous skin of his story. We the audience, after all, know better than his captive audience. Darius wasn't there at all.
Izzo deftly handles the increasing tension by never fully revealing how much is truly believed by Darius's family, nor how much time is left before they discover it's all an act; Or if they discover it at all. Beautifully photographed by Arlene Muller, the film glides through the twilight hours of a man running out of time, and his desperate attempt for a second chance at becoming the father he may have never been in the first place. Reminiscent of Bresson's Pickpocket, Izzo is fast becoming a new master of portraying human frailty, and the tragicomic circumstances that tighten around wayward souls believing they are either too deserving of salvation, or too clever to outwit their inevitable judgment.
I Was There Too is available for streaming on Vimeo and was named Short of the Week.