Movies / Movie Reviews

I'm Not There

By Hervé St-Louis
December 30, 2007 - 09:16



Bob Dylan is one of those names I keep hearing about that are way past my sentient days. I hear his music everywhere, hear about his poems and the strength of his word referred to in movies and even classes in school. But I’ve never had firsthand knowledge of who he was. It was with great joy that I was looking forward to seeing this film, played by six different actors, one who is black kid and another one a woman. That would be fun I told myself. I left the theatre as perplexed and ignorant about Dylan as I entered it.


If impressionism could be translated into film I’m Not There would be a close contender for a good example. I’m Not There is more about feeling what Bob Dylan was than understanding him logically. The movie creates a world where each actor picked to play a part in Dylan’s life is the best prospect for the role. Unlike many other biopics, the film does not try to provide a complete and objective view of the subject. In fact, given the imaginary scenes, it’s hard to tell how much was inspired by the real Dylan and how much the director came up with.


Biopics are supposed to inform viewers about the people they cover and provide at least the basic answers such as who, what where, how, when and why.

Who Bob Dylan was, I still don’t know. All of his selves had different names in the film and it was not explained why.

What was the impact of Bob Dylan on culture was alluded to, but we never did find out how his music ranked or was perceived next to contemporaries such as The Beetles.

Where his life occurred and where he came from was not clear? There were scenes alluding to a life from some East Coast suburbs and some juvenile detention but nothing more.

How he became Bob Dylan and how his music spread to the world and became a symbol for civil rights and against Vietnam was still unanswered. I still don’t know how exactly Dylan died although from what I’ve followed in the film, it involves either a motorcycle crash or a drug overdose.

When did Dylan died and what years did his life spanned exactly is a void that I’ll just call the 1960s and the 1970s.

Why should we care about Dylan, especially younger people like me who have no information on him and no direct recollection to the civil rights movement is not answered.


The director probably thought he would provide just enough hints about Dylan and that interested viewers would do further research on their own. But what’s the point of watching a biopic if one has to hop on Wikipedia to look for real answers about Dylan?

I’ll mention in passing that the audience was composed of a lot of baby boomers. It explains the problem of this film. The director and the writer wrote this film to please their fellow baby boomers who had the basic required background on Dylan, but ignored all other viewers who have no attachments to him. So instead of being a bridge toward newer generations, this film was made for baby boomers by baby boomers and not meant to be shared with others. Hence there is no point to this film at all and it fails in being anything one can take seriously.


The visual effects of this film and the cinematography are great and reinforce the impressionist effect it has. But as beautiful a film it was, if it offers no information to viewers or real entertainment. Those sumptuous graphics become irrelevant. It’s too bad that in conclusion, what the makers of this film had to say about Dylan was that he does not matter.

Rating: 6 /10

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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