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1987, love in time of war. A bus driver George Lennox meets Carla, a Nicaraguan exile living a precarious, profoundly sad life in Glasgow. Her back is scarred, her boyfriend missing, her family dispersed; she's suicidal. George takes her to Nicaragua to find out what has happened to them and to help her face her past. Once home, Carla's nightmarish memories take over, and Carla and George are thrown into the thick of the US war against the Sandinistas. A mystery develops over where Carla's boyfriend is, and the key to his whereabouts may be Carla's friend Bradley, a bitter American aid worker. She finds her family, the Contras attack, and she and the Scot face their choices. Written by
Ken Loach is a remarkable storyteller. Notice how subtly Carlyle's George changes from a loveable lout to noble lover; now find a recent Hollywood film that accomplishes something even close. Moving dramatically from the grey grime of Glasgow to the green pandemonium of Nicaragua in 1987, this film charts a remarkable story of how international politics becomes an international dance of love becomes international politics.
The reviewer who argues that the film glorifies the Sandinistas has it all wrong (except perhaps in the world of doublespeak where simply to treat the Sandinistas with sympathy is to glorify them . . .) Loach rather glorifies the kind of loving devotion that leads George to make a remarkable self-abnegating gesture at the end of the film. Even as I believe that the film is primarily about the love between Carla and George, I am happy for the legions of viewers in the U.S. who, upon watching this film, might be inspired to investigate what the U.s. was up to in Nicaragua in the 1980's. As Noam Chomsky so calmly puts it, U.S. involvement in sponsoring terrorism against the Sandinista government is a completely "non-controversial" issue (underlying strong, though naturally unenforceable acts of censure against the U.S. from both the World Court and U.N.). In the film, Scott Glenn has a few nice moments articulating this position. Very worthwhile. And when we finally hear Carla's song, it is moving indeed.
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