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– by Daniel Tafoya

Sam just can’t seem to die. He is a paramedic carrying on an affair with a married woman. Her husband, Tyler, finds out and kills him in a lakeside fight, but that won’t stop Sam’s spirit as it begins to jump to his other friends, gathered at a lake house for his work partner’s birthday. His consciousness won’t stop, no matter how many times he dies, as he seeks to protect the ones he loves from the aforementioned Tyler’s murderous intentions.

That’s the plot of the new indie thriller Every Time I Die. Released this week to select theaters, it is an ingenious and gripping cinematic suspenser that is exceedingly well made and all the more impressive given its assumedly low budget. It’s not often that one finds an independent film so masterfully made, but Every Time I Die has so many things going for it, the few minor quibbles I had were easily forgotten.

First-time feature director Robi Michael shows a command of the camera and mise en scene one would expect from a far more seasoned filmmaker. He and his co-writer/editor Gal Katzir also do a bang-up job interweaving flashbacks from Sam’s troubled childhood with his current off the wall situation, piecing together fragments of our lead’s personality as the film progresses. We learn more about Sam as he dies, and by movie’s end, we feel even more for him and his sad, grim fate.

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Standing out amid the film’s very small cast are identical twin actors Melissa and Michelle Macedo. They play Mia, the object of Sam’s affection, and Poppy, the wife of Jay, Sam’s paramedic partner. They are caught up in all of the drama and violence playing out in their midst, and skillfully evince the full range of emotions engendered by such. Added to that, when Sam takes over their bodies, another acting challenge is presented that they both expertly handle.

The film’s low key sci-fi aspects bring to mind the 90s serial killer thriller Fallen but with a far more magnanimous consciousness being passed along, this time. Similarly, It Follows would seem to have been a likely inspirational precursor. The film’s high concept, while not completely new to viewers, is so deftly handled here that it appears fresh and novel once again.

Every Time I Die is an independent film worth seeking out. Amid the sea of formulaic studio movies flooding screens this and every summer, it stands out as a beacon for original storytelling and bold new filmmaking voices. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Recommended if you enjoyed: Memento, Primer, The Endless

Final Grade: A-

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