A close-range film about distance, the short, poignant documentary “I’m Leaving Now” unfolds like a character study. It opens with Felipe Hernández, a Mexican man in Brooklyn, collecting recyclables in the early morning hours. The directors, Lindsey Cordero and Armando Croda, establish the rhythms of his routine. The camera, apparently attached to Felipe’s cart, rattles as he trudges along.
This is just one way that Felipe earns money to send to family members in Mexico, from whom he’s been away for about 16 years. We see him doing janitorial work. He wears a shirt that says “US OPEN STAFF.” He lives in a spartan cubbyhole of an apartment. And from what we see, his relationship with his family consists almost entirely of phone conversations — and has for a long time.
Felipe provides for his family at the cost of knowing them. He plans to visit in December, although a woman notes that he’s talked about returning to Mexico for years. A son who was eight months old when he left is now a teenager. Felipe must accept that the boy, having grown up without him, may not see him as a father, and that his marriage has grown strained.
The filmmakers’ unmediated approach (no title cards or interviews) has trade-offs. It would be interesting to know more about how Felipe’s interactions with his family changed over the years. But telling his story in vignettes allows the passage of time to be felt in other ways. Every jump forward is a small shock.
I’m Leaving Now
Not rated. In Spanish and English with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 14 minutes.