Fresh off its world premiere at the Florida Film Festival, director/co-writer Sarah Tice's debut feature Did I? is a jarring and emotionally raw exploration of one woman's journey with Dissociative Identity Disorder and the traumas and the dramas that have in most ways come to define her very existence. That woman, Genevieve (Alexandra Pica), is first met as she awakens mysteriously with inexplicable bruising and an obvious disorientation that implies a story that we don't yet know.
Genevieve is a writer, or at least working toward it. There's something holding her back it would seem, though she has the opportunity but struggles to take advantage of it. It's only a few minutes into Did I? that we companion Genevieve into a session with her therapist, Raven Wynn's Rachel. It's clear the two are familiar and it's even more clear that Genevieve's existence is a fractured one as she struggles to maintain some sense of normalcy while dealing with a mind that isn't dealing with the normal.
It would be easy to chalk up Tice's well-meaning low-budget psychological thriller as yet the latest cinematic feature to play off the dramatic heights of the world of mental illness and, in particular, the world of Dissociative Identity Disorder, often known as DID. Except, somewhat refreshingly, Tice for the most part avoids the usual histrionics and stereotypes of mental illness and instead immerses us deep within the troubling world Genevieve, her alter Stevie, and the foundational life experiences have created the increasingly risky life in which they both are struggling to live.
Let's start off by acknowledging that Alexandra Pica hits it out of the ballpark here as both Genevieve and Stevie, somehow portraying both extremes without ever coming off like a caricature. While some film's, one of the more recent being M. Night's Split, benefit from a bigger budget and an ability to allow special effects to tell part of the story, Pica is left with her own strengths as an actress to bring this portrayal to life and she does it with aching vulnerability, remarkable transparency, and a rawness that leaves you breathless. A relative newcomer, Pica's performance here indicates a tremendous talent to be watched as she builds a character who is fractured yet sympathetic, at times difficult to watch yet fiercely compelling.
Created as part of the University of Central Florida's MFA program and utilizing a predominantly female cast and crew, Tice's Did I? digs much deeper than most films that attempt to explore Dissociative Identity Disorder and yet never gets bogged down in the process. Tice also lenses the film with precision and discipline, somehow creating a visually arresting palette that may be difficult for some more sensitive to experimental lensing and strobe effects. We get a sense of how Genevieve is dealing with trauma and of the undeniable connection all of this has to the bolder, more extroverted, and much more risk-taking Stevie as her alter.
Raven Wynn complements Pica's performance quite nicely as Raven, though this experience is best left undescribed as it's essential to how the story unfolds.
While Did I? is largely centered around the performances of Pica and Wynn, it's important to note that this is a strong, cohesive ensemble with memorable performances turned in by Stephanie Kirves, Michael Vitovich, Darby Robbins, and Marisol Robles among others.
It's difficult to tell a story like the one that unfolds in Did I? and it's even more difficult to do so within the realm of truly indie, low-budget filmmaking. Yet, that's exactly what happens with Sarah Tice's thoughtful, sensitive, intelligent, and memorable debut feature Did I?.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic