As a filmmaker, writer/director Chris Esper has always had a unique ability to tackle unique, challenging material with surprising clarity and intelligence even within the confines of a short film.
So, I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that Esper has succeeded so greatly with his latest film, Imposter, Esper's most complex yet satisfying film to date with Esper's massive delving inward toward the difficult to describe, even more difficult to replicate world of anxiety and, as well, the "Imposter Syndrome," a syndrome largely identified clinically in the late 70's and early 80's as impacting many people at least once in life and, in some cases, over and over again.
Esper seems to wisely identify that delving into the world of anxiety is no small task, a task that practically defies the spoken word and, as such, Esper largely avoids the spoken word in favor of sparse original music and Ben Alexander's all encompassing sound that helps to bring to life the ever present inner voice and voices that nag us, impact us, and occasionally even derail us.
Imposter is a film where it helps to have at least some idea of its subject matter before sitting down for a view, perhaps an ever so slight weakness for the film given that it's entirely likely not everyone who does sit down to watch the film will know what they've gotten into before seeing Mike (Tom Mariano), a businessman plagued by the ever present and dominating obstacles placed before him by a jester (Brendan Meehan) of sorts, a constantly harassing presence that makes even getting through a simple business meeting an intimidating task.
Imposter continues these scenarios, not so much vignettes as they are irrevocably interwoven rhythms of life and relationship, with the even more effective presence of Sheetal Kelkar's nakedly transparent artist, whose constant counterpart (Jamie Braddy) is also a constant hindrance to Kelkar's artistic expression. Finally, of course, any true representation of anxiety couldn't possibly be complete without the more extreme end of a clinical diagnosis that remains misunderstood by many, if not most, of those who've never experienced it. William DeCoff's electrifying turn as a military veteran dealing with past penetrating present is harrowing to watch.
If you watch closely, of course, you will undoubtedly also see the subtler ways that Esper has woven anxiety into the everyday fabric of his film, rather magical touches seen throughout the film that are more subtle yet no less impactful. Richard King lenses the film in such a way that it feels as each individual explored operates as if under a microscopic lens that, at times, turns telescopic in its impact. It's remarkably effective yet never actually dominates the film.
Without explanation, it's entirely likely that those who understand the world of anxiety and/or Imposter Syndrome will quickly latch onto the world that Esper has created with Imposter. For others, perhaps, it may take a few moments before Esper's purpose becomes revealed and the true impact of what he's created is fully known. Regardless, Imposter is Esper's most intimate and effective film to date, an impactful and emotionally resonant exploration of a world that feels familiar even if we don't completely understand it.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic