SXSW FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! Shot over five years, director David Zucker makes a tender and candid debut with Your Friend, Memphis. The documentary follows Memphis Diangelis, a spontaneous and high-spirited young man with cerebral palsy. Despite being afflicted with a motor disability, he is passionate about life. Throughout the introspective film, he yearns for more independence and pursues his passions without getting discouraged.
The filmmaker follows Memphis as he admires all aspects of life, never really focusing extensively on the negative. Zucker casually tags along as the young man admires the sunset and enjoys a stroll. To better understand Memphis and his relationships, the writer/director frequently talks to the man’s parents, Christine and Edoardo. His mom discusses her relationship with her son after being out of his life for a while. His dad loves him and wants Memphis to succeed. However, he recognizes that Memphis will face more obstacles with his disability, and he’s going to have to confront them at some point. I can see where the dad is coming from, largely because it is inherently better for one’s self-esteem to develop the perseverance to overcome challenges and adversity.
In the beginning of Your Friend, Memphis, we learn that he wants to pursue filmmaking. Memphis talks about the time he starred in a movie called Love Land. During production, he met Seneca; his co-star turned best friend. Similar to what he does with the subject’s parents, Zucker gives Seneca screen time to elucidate her struggles as a performer in an idyllic Texas town. While the secondary players have troubles and regrets of their own they have to contend with, the switches between perspectives, however brief and intriguing, are a bit jumbled.
“…follows Memphis as he admires all aspects of life, never really focusing extensively on the negative.”
But, at the end of the day, Memphis is the primary subject, and his goals, while attainable in a sense, are slightly quixotic. Even as he over-idealizes his aspirations, his enthusiasm is irresistible. Be that as it may, his parents and friends challenge his unflagging determination, which makes for some moderately intense conversations about finances, independent living, and friendship. Money is of little concern to Memphis, which worries his mother, who’s been pushing him to accept more financial responsibility. To make her worries worse, Memphis has been denied any government support, which is outrageous and should serve as a failure of our disability services. Zucker remains authentic and unelaborate in his filming; it’s another day in the life of Memphis, and simple handheld camerawork keeps the focus primarily on him.
Halfway through, Memphis develops a romantic interest. In a palpably distressing scene, a trembling Memphis tries to open up to his crush about his feelings. Zucker closely observes him as he contemplates what he should say or if he should say anything at all at the risk of losing a friendship.
There is heartbreak, anxiety, and elation associated with the man’s journey to independence. Regardless of whether he can ever live on his own, Memphis is always living life to the fullest. How many people can say that, despite all setbacks, they always try to be genuinely happy? Your Friend, Memphis warms your heart and challenges your perception of what it means to live.
Your Friend, Memphis screened at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival.
"…challenges your perception of what it means to live."