Posts Tagged ‘immigration’

I CARRY YOU WITH ME” My rating: B+

Armando Espitia, Christian Vazquez

111 minutes | MPAA rating: R

If Terrence Malick had made a gay-themed movie about the immigrant experience, it would be “I Carry You With Me.”

Like Malick’s “Tree of Life,” Heidi Ewing’s film is a dreamlike affair that shifts back and forth in time and relies on voiceover narration to reveal its lead character’s inner thoughts. It is unhurried and lyrical, but also trades heavily in social injustice issues.

And it’s pretty much all true. In this heady blend of gay love story and immigrant saga, documentary footage and fictional reenactments, the two main characters are not only based on two real individuals, but those two individuals play themselves in the movie’s last act.

Head spinning yet?

The picture begins with New York chef Ivan Garcia riding the NYC subway and reflecting, via narration, on the journey that brought him to a successful career while forcing him to leave behind his roots in Mexico. As we’ll learn, Ivan is an undocumented immigrant who, should he return home, would be prohibited from reentering the USA, leaving his two restaurants and 80 employees in the lurch.

The film then shifts back 30 years to Mexico where young Ivan (played as a 20-something by Armando Espitia), despite a culinary degree, can find work only as a restaurant busboy. When there’s an opening for a cook, the owner invariable gives the gig to one of his relations.

Ivan has a young son born out of wedlock; he adores the kid and walks a fine line in maintaining the peace with the boy’s mother, lest he lose visiting rights.

But Ivan has a secret. He is a closeted gay. Macho-centric Mexico makes life hard for homosexuals, and the situation is doubly complicated because should word of his sexual orientation reach the wrong ears, Ivan will never again see his boy.

One good thing: He meets the out Gerardo (Christian Vazquez), who introduces Ivan to the local (albeit underground) gay scene.

The screenplay by Alan Page and Ewing (this is her first fictional effort after a documentary career highlighted by the chilling “Jesus Camp”) depicts the young men’s deepening relationship against Ivan’s growing conviction that if he’s ever to realize his culinary dreams he’ll have to abandon Mexico and sneak into the U.S.

That means leaving behind Gerardo and his little boy.

On his coyote-led trip across the Rio Grande and through the Texas desert Ivan is accompanied by his childhood friend Sandra (Michelle Rodriguez), who very nearly succumbs to the journey’s many dangers.

Once in New York, Ivan works in a car wash and other menial gigs before finally working his way up the food industry ladder.

This immigrant tale is interrupted periodically with flashbacks to his and Gerardo’s childhoods (as boys they are portrayed by Yael Tadeo and Nery Arandondo, respectively). While Ivan was reared in a loving if financially strapped family, Gerardo was tormented by his father, a hairtrigger-tempered rancher carrying a full saddlebag of homophobia. This explains Gerardo’s estrangement from his clan, not to mention his determination to never hide his gayness come what may.

Eventually Gerardo joins Ivan in the US and they build a life and business together. As mature individuals they are portrayed by the real individuals — Ivan Garcia and Gerardo Zabaleta — who celebrate their success even as they mourn the loss of their Mexican identities.

In one heartbreaking scene Ivan shares a phone call with his now-grown son, whom he hasn’t seen for decades and whose attempts to visit his father in the U.S. have been stymied by government red tape.

“I Carry You With Me” began as a documentary, with Ewing filming her friends Ivan and Gerardo. But as she learned more about their epic yet intimate story, she decided to use actors to depict their earlier life in Mexico.

The resulting film is a genre-bending hybrid that nails both the triumph of these two enterprising individuals and the acute sense of loss they experience as men without a country.

“Haunting” isn’t too strong a word.

| Robert W. Butler

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