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Christian Bale
Cate Blanchett
Colin Farrell
Julianne Moore
Richard Gere
Charlotte Gainsbourg
Ben Whishaw
Heath Ledger
Michelle Williams
Marcus Carl Franklin
Oren Moverman.
Todd Haynes.
Todd Haynes.
Running Time
136 minutes

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I'm Not There
Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan, Bob Dylans...

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Biopic of legendary singer Bob Dylan through seven different stages in the artist’s life played by six different actors. The events that follow are drawn as much from Dylan's songs as from his actual biography.

I'm Not There
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A biopic where the famous white, male subject is subdivided into six personalities and played by everyone from an 11 year-old black boy to a statuesque Aussie actress, via both Batman and his forthcoming Joker, with not one of them going by the hero’s name? That’s just crazy. But wily American director Todd Haynes is on to something here. When the focus of your movie is that shapeshifting and hugely reluctant American icon Bob Dylan, how better to capture his slippery spirit than to tell six intertwined stories, each capturing one of the many personas of the great singer? And, for all the pinballing through history and psyche, Haynes, who played with the gauche moves of glam-rock with mixed results in Velvet Goldmine, manages a laid-back groove to his searching.

We start with titchy Marcus Carl Franklin, embodying the early years, when Dylan harkened to the call of his hero folk-singer Woody Guthrie and apparently rode across lush American fields in open-fronted boxcars. To add a further tickle of symbolism (and confusion), this version of Dylan is christened Woody Guthrie. Christian Bale, as Jack Rollins, encompasses the heroic early years when Dylan struck fame and radicalism, and later the ‘saved period’ where he took to the Bible as Pastor John. And Richard Gere, as craggy as a tramp with peppery beard and wire-rimmed specs, plays the modern incarnation searching for the roots of American folklore. Still with us? Okay, we’ll continue...

In the most striking and so-far lauded bit of Bob, Cate Blanchett gives an uncanny depiction of the controversial ‘electric years’ - that point when Dylan shrank away from his folk adulation and appalled the faithful with licks of what sounded like rock. It is Blanchett who most closely captures the familiar herky-jerky frame and wired truculence - the inner conflict of a man confronting a legend he can’t handle. Indeed, there is a look that Blanchett gives the camera, a long, loaded stare down the barrel of a gun, which is worth the asking price alone. You can’t see her missing out on a Supporting Actress (or should that be Actor?) nomination or two come backslapping time. 

The story is fractionally chronological, but each tale wraps in and out of the others, defying narrative flow. There is little point in trying to treat each variation as the next ‘Dylan’ in a row. Two of them are, in fact, representations of an emotional event and inspirations. Heath Ledger, playing an imprint who seems to be more actor than singer, is the failed husband, and Charlotte Gainsbourg, as his forlorn wife, an amalgam of all the wounded women of his life. Then there’s Ben Whishaw, who preaches slivers of cute philosophy direct to camera, an echo of Dylan’s obsession with the poet Rimbaud.

As the leads rotate, so the style of filmmaking shifts and warps around the various ideas. For Blanchett’s taut electric years, it floats in a creamy black-and-white of mid-’60s glamour. For Gere’s autumnal years, it drifts into an elegiac landscape, directly referencing Dylan’s own presence in Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garret And Billy The Kid. There is surrealism, madcap humour, heartbreak, poetry and pure nonsense; most of which, of course, you could equally say of the man himself.

It’s that kind of film: restless and brilliant, annoying and self-satisfied in its intimacy with the subject (who wholeheartedly approved). It will infuriate with its longeurs and frankly baffling little gimmicks, and it drifts on too long. But there’s no doubting Haynes has succeeded in capturing a real sense of the strange figure who can claim to have changed America. We learn nothing greatly significant about Dylan. He remains the fanciful enigma, but we do learn plenty about the futile effort of the press, fan and filmmaker alike to define their heroes. Which is partly the point.

An extraordinary attempt to encapsulate the many faces of Bob Dylan that plays better to the convert than the sceptic. Like the nasal twang of the man in question, the film finally beguiles more than it irritates.

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for I'm Not There
Empire Star Rating

What the?

Well shot, well acted, well produced. However, a film cannot just be a concept. One of the words the Empire review uses is frustrating. Could not agree more. It's baffling beyond belief, stuck up it's own rear end and generally a self-satisfying load of twaddle. I know it's trying to be bold, but it just ends up being confusing, boring and ultimately thoroughly unenjoyable and yes, frustrating. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Carrboy at 17:00, 07 July 2010 | Report This Post

In my top 20

Also my favourite biopic of all time A True Visual and Aural feast. I never knew anything about Bob Dylan but still greatly enjoyed the film. Got the DVD. It's wonderful ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by monkeyhumour at 06:31, 16 June 2010 | Report This Post

Great, complex and full of great music. This is a 5-star film. Oh, and, by the way, Cate Blanchett is lengendary in this film! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 03:44, 07 January 2010 | Report This Post

Didn't really work for me.

I love Bob Dylan, both his music and his life, but for me this didn't really work as a movie. For a start it seemed to glorify most the thing I dislike most about Dylan - his pseudo-philosophy, the stuff he sometimes says which sounds profound and enlightened but which you later realise is bollocks. The Rimbaud character was worst for this. I wanted to punch him. Also I think that the entwining plots were too scattershot for me, and cut away to each other just when I was getting interested. Not ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Tyler_Durden at 12:42, 28 August 2008 | Report This Post

Disappointing And Boring.

I probably think I would be a outcast for saying this but I didn't like this. In the first half hour, I was bored out of my skull and it didn't get any better during the two hour running. Sure, the only perfomances that captured me was only Christian Bale (what the with the hair?!) and Heath Ledger who played a tortured soul very well. Cate Blanchett's okay, wouldn't think of it as Oscar worthy and Richard Gere was very annoying as the cowboy version. The songs were depressing and so was this te... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 15:45, 20 July 2008 | Report This Post

Adventurous I'm not there

I appreciate the boldness and daring of this film but I did not like it. Cate Blanchett is brilliant but the film is confusing and strange. The Gere sequence is just bizarre. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 00:51, 03 July 2008 | Report This Post

Adventurous I'm not there

I appreciate the boldness and daring of this film but I did not like it. Cate Blanchett is brilliant but the film is confusing and strange. The Gere sequence is just bizarre. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 00:51, 03 July 2008 | Report This Post

RE: I'm Not There

The Cate Blancett section blows the others away, but there are some nice understated turn from the late Heath Ledger, Christian Bale was given way to little screen time as the preacher and looked the part perfectly. Even Gere was good, in a poetic fantasy land which seemed to embody his songs and his hero worship of Billy the Kid. Julianne moore seemed tacked on and could have shown her to greater success in the early years rather than just still images. Great Experiment that gets better each t... More

Posted by punchdrunk at 14:56, 30 March 2008 | Report This Post

RE: I'm Not There

r: ynes riters: ynes, Oren Moverman g: an Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw sired by the life and music of Bob Dylan, Theresix fictional stories reflecting the different aspects of the legendary singer. ew director coming out of the art film, Todd Haynes went of making fictional biopics like Goldmine was an inside look of 70s glam rock. Haynes was the same director to bring such controversial themes in his 50s-set drama m Heaven coul... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 15:47, 22 March 2008 | Report This Post

Dull and pretentious (but the music was good)

After an hour of this I was praying for it to end. Maybe it makes a difference if you are a big dylan fan (i just think he is alright) and the music along with the cast was the best thing about the film but I just found the whole thing dull, uninvolving and most of all eye-wateringly pretentious.   It felt like a film made by some art student who was in love with the whole myth of dylan. I was reminded on several occasions of the film that Jim Morrison makes at the start of 'The Doors... More

Posted by MartinBlank76 at 13:13, 16 January 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Ambitious and complex

Saw this At the Curzon in Soho on Saturday ,and i must say i thought this was brilliant. Having seen the Scorsese Documentary ,i have to say Both Bale and Blanchett were fantastic as various Dylan Incarnations. The Richard Gere Bits were good too and the Going to Acapulco song was heartbreaking in its brilliance. Special Kudos to Ed Lachman the dp for his fantastic camerawork on the film god knows it must have been tricky. I can take or leave Dylan  but i really enjoyed this f... More

Posted by filmburner30 at 12:33, 07 January 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Ambitious and complex

As a sign of how much blues/folk and Dylan fans should go and see this movie, I know pretty much absolutely nothing about Dylan and his music, and yet I'm giving this nearly five stars. Todd Haynes doesn't even bother trying to summarise Dylan and his life in one actor; he gets seven of them to play various versions and ages of Dylan, covering most of the major "styles" that he went through. There's Heath Ledger in there, and The Bale, and a remarkable young black boy who plays the young Dylan ... More

Posted by Lightfoot at 14:35, 01 January 2008 | Report This Post

Ambitious and complex

Todd Haynes’ ambitious, complex tribute to Bob Dylan is as layered and dense as the great man’s best songs. Ben Whishaw goes beyond impersonation and simply is Dylan in his straight-to-camera monologues, while Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett also excel, adding their own spin to the Dylan legend. Child actor Marcus Carl Franklin is superb as the young Dylan, obsessed with Woody Guthrie. Heath Ledger and Richard Gere prove less satisfying. It is arguably too long, possibly too am... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Stan1970 at 14:57, 26 December 2007 | Report This Post

RE: An adventurous but disappointing endeavour...

It's rare that a film can be so different depending on the person watching it. I watched I'm Not There yesterday with my friend who wouldn't know Like A Rolling Stone from Blowin' in the Wind, and it seemed to be a much different experience for both of us, a much simpler one for her I think. If you're a Dylan fan, you'll spend a lot of time spotting the references to songs and incidents and Dylans life, it may well require a second viewing to soak up everything. To the film, itself, it is,... More

Posted by Driver 8 at 23:59, 22 December 2007 | Report This Post

An adventurous but disappointing endeavour...

Interpreting the music Bob Dylan is not a task to be taken lightly. A multilayered portrait of the songs and career Bob Dylan, Todd Haynes approaches his impossible task in an intersting way, but I'm Not There is ultimately a mildly diverting mess. An incredible cast each do their best dylan impression. Cate Blanchett is the most impressive, but the story of her dylan has already been told. Ledger's narrative is the most interesting (the breakdown of Dylan's marriage), but before we can reall... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by wunderkidd at 00:40, 22 December 2007 | Report This Post

really interesting film. you need to be pretty knowledgeable about dylan to get all the references, but i went with two people who knew very little about him and they enjoyed it as much as me. cate blanchett's performance has been lauded in just about every review and you can see why. saying that though, i think marcus carl franklin did pretty well too. I would like to have seen more christian bale and less richard gere. ben whishaw was underused but he had a similar character to cate's so ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Paddy Bateman at 21:47, 21 December 2007 | Report This Post

so is this actually showing anywhere??? so far i cant find it at any of the main chains. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by adambatman82 at 20:15, 19 December 2007 | Report This Post

Blanchett for best supporting actor...

now that would be a great first! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by punchdrunk at 11:30, 17 December 2007 | Report This Post

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