I saw this film at the NY Latino Film Festival. I was very excited to see a film about the Cuban community in Miami, a subject that's never really been done. In fact, about a quarter of the way in, I even thought it was the best film about Cuban Americans I'd ever seen. I loved the way it captured the Miami culture, and both the older and younger generation of Cuban exiles, and the different interests in both circles. But then the movie just spirals out of control.
First off, I absolutely HATED the way the film was shot and edited. I have no problem when movies are shot hand-held as it adds a gritty realism, but there were times when the camera WOULD NOT STOP SHAKING. Seriously, get a tripod! Then there's the issue of jump-cuts. Conversations are put together in choppy ways with no visual continuity. I guess this was a stylistic choice to disorient the audience, but all it does is annoy. One scene in particular where Ivan and Tamara are fighting in a parking garage is so full of intentional jump-cuts that it almost made me want to walk out. It's an example of how a movie's attempt at "style" is so distracting that you wish for just a linear narrative.
But then there's the story. As I said, I enjoyed how it started, but without revealing too much, I'll just say that soon Ivan's shady and self-destructive behavior becomes more and more the focal point of the story. I was surprised by a few brutal deaths, including one that made no sense, and then a final twist is revealed about Ivan that brings the whole thing to a halt. After the movie ended, I felt absolutely nothing for the characters.
I'm disappointed that the filmmakers decided to take the route of such brooding yet ultimately shallow melodrama. There were so many themes that this premise could have explored: how identities are formed in a foreign country, the ambivalent and ambiguous feelings the characters have towards both countries, the definition of a family and whether or not two people can form a father-son relationship as adults. Instead, all these themes are glossed over in place of an ugly, negative story about drugs, sex, and self-destructive behavior. WHY? Why on Earth did the filmmakers choose to tell this particular story? If you took away the whole Cuban-American angle, you would be left with a generic thriller.
What saddens me the most is that the acting is great, the cinematography looks great (when it isn't so shaky) and I learned later that the whole movie was made for just $30,000 and a 10 person crew! That's amazing! They made a good-looking, competent feature with the minimum, and with the right story it could really have been an accomplishment. Instead they made a trite melodrama. Hopefully next time they'll take some money from that budget to buy a tripod.
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