Before she made last year’s Oscar shortlisted documentary Hooligan Sparrow, Chinese-American filmmaker Nanfu Wang struck up an unlikely friendship with Dylan Olsen while on a road trip through America. A 22-year old drifter and former heroin addict, Olsen has lived on the streets in various cities across the country rather than go back to his conservative, but loving Mormon family back in Utah. Wang attempts to keep up with Dylan, whose charisma makes people naturally want to help him, but the filmmaker eventually gets frustrated with her travelling companion, gives up, and leaves. But after completing Hooligan Sparrow, Wang picks things up again by paying a visit to Dylan’s police detective father, and a wider, more complex picture of a young man who looks not unlike many street kids begins to emerge.
I Am Another You is an enthralling story of perseverance, mental illness, and familial love that establishes Wang once and for all as a filmmaker people need to keep an eye on in the future. What begins as a better, less forced version of Andrea Arnold’s overrated fictional film American Honey quickly morphs into a work of great empathy and emotional heft.
Some viewers, and even Wang herself, are quick to initially write Dylan off for his perceived selfishness and sometimes aloof demeanour, but in a fascinating twist to such a story, the young man’s family has never given up on him and trust in his sometimes shaky judgment. It builds to some remarkable moments of clarity for a now aging Dylan, who speaks with great candour about why he acts the way he does. There are no easy answers contained within I Am Another You, but there’s a large amount of warmth, and the questions about how we treat fellow human beings are ones we all need to be asking ourselves.