Life changes in the blink of an eye.
by Megan Smith
From “carpe diem” to “live every day like it’s your last” to, heaven forbid, “YOLO,” we talk a lot about seizing the moment and making the most out of life—but are we really doing it? Pamela Drynan’s documentary Where I Am reminds us that life can change, for better or worse, in the blink of an eye.
The film follows award-winning gay American writer and editor Robert Drake (The Gay Canon and The Man: A Hero for Our Time) on his journey to physical and spiritual recovery. In 1999, Drake, who was at the height of his career, was targeted by two men for being gay and attacked while he was abroad in Sligo, Ireland. Although he was simply being kind to the men, they interpreted his friendliness as a sexual advance and bloodied him in his own apartment, leaving him with significant brain damage and unable
More than 10 years later, Drake holds no hatred for his attackers and has long since forgiven them. In hopes of “coming full circle” in his recovery process, Drake chooses to return to Ireland with his caregiver to see what “memories or ghosts” he can find, as he cannot remember the attack itself. The two meet with Drake’s old literary friends and those who rescued him after the assault. His two attackers, who only served eight years and are now out of prison, declined to speak with him.
Drake realizes that Ireland can never be what it once was to him—life there has moved on without him. He does not acknowledge this with sadness, but rather with notable optimism. Indeed, as chapters in our own stories come to a close, new and different ones begin.
Drake is both an openly gay man and a Quaker, an intersection of identities rarely seen in the media. He cites his faith as a heavily influential part of his recovery process—a concept that I feel could have been further explored in the documentary. Interviews with Drake’s ex-partner, Kieran Slevin, reveal society’s often-problematic views surrounding people’s ability differences. Slevin consistently refers to Drake pre-attack as the “Old Robert” and Drake’s current state as the “New Robert” and explains that the two are incomparable. Despite these statements, Drake says that he’s never been a different person and that he’s still the same Robert.
Now typing one key at a time, Drake is getting back to editing short pieces and focusing on improving himself in hopes of one day returning to his work. “Everything in time,” he says. A truthful film about closure and optimism for the future, Where I Am leaves you pondering just how much we take for granted and what it means to truly seize the day.
Available from MPI Home Video (mpihomevideo.com).