Despite its Chilean setting and origin, director Gaspar Antillo’s debut film Nobody Knows I’m Here (Nadie Sabe Que Estoy Aquí in the original Spanish) features a face American audiences will recognize: actor Jorge Garcia, who played Hurley in the 2000’s TV show Lost, stars as Memo, an ex-singer living on a secluded island in southern Chile. Unlike that affable, frequently comedic former role, Memo is a broken man, so scarred by his past that he has cut himself off from everyone but his loving uncle, Braulio (Luis Gnecco). He shrugs off Braulio’s suggestions to take the boat into town and does his best to stay out of sight when the occasional visitor stops by their sheep farm. The only stranger with unfettered access to him is the camera— and the gentleness of its gaze comes to mean a great deal.
Though concrete information reaches us slowly in Nobody Knows I’m Here, Memo is established as former child singer, talented and outgoing, who now can barely bring himself to speak. Besides working alongside his uncle, he cultivates lonely hobbies— including a rebellious tendency to break into empty vacation homes on other islands, to relax in luxury— but secretly dreams of a performer’s life, draped in glittering fabric and bathed in soft, pink light. Giving us time to settle into his daily life, the story is pushed forward when an accident forces him into contact with Marta (Millaray Lobos), a kind local who makes it her mission to bring him out of his shell.
In making that metaphorical shell manifest in his physicality, Garcia’s performance is a decided strength, particularly considering that the script (by design) provides few alternative ways of accessing his character. An obviously large man, Memo often makes himself small before others, carrying his struggles with confidence and body image in his shoulders. His expression shows us the mixture of fear and resentment and longing bottled up inside him, making us aware of emotional layers we have yet to fully uncover and helping us become invested in their excavation. Though Antillo’s film moves slowly, the time spent shadowing Memo before exploring his past succeeds in cultivating our empathy, something we only realize when third-act confrontations make us bristle with indignity on his behalf.
The camera is equally crucial in forging this relationship. The frequent use of tracking shots both highlights Garcia’s physical work and gives the sense that the camera is a pseudo-character within the storyworld, committed not only to exploring Memo’s perspective but furthering his well-being. A key but subtle moment illustrates this well: Marta arrives on the island to drop off goods, and Memo, instead of hiding as he had previously done, meets her at the dock to help carry them. When he hastily takes a bundle and trudges back to the farmhouse, the camera stays and turns to Marta, suddenly following her with the same attentiveness it affords the protagonist. Foreshadowing a future closeness, Antillo welcomes Marta into Memo’s world with this gesture, and we are quick to trust her as a result. Nobody Knows I’m Here is modest in its reach but remarkably measured and effective, full of little moments like this that make its small world an engaging one.