This Mexican drama makes you want to say: “Viva La LGBTQIA!”
When a drama jumps back and forth in time to show us the same homosexual as a child, young adult, and middle-aged man, you can sense when “I Carry You with Me” wants to channel on the magic of “Moonlight.” It almost reaches its expectations, but then again, not every gay drama can be like “Moonlight.” “Call Me By Your Name” proved that. “I Carry You with Me” comes in a timely fashion, and provides characters from familiar territories and different worlds.
It was co-written and directed by Heidi Ewing, who specializes in documentaries like the Oscar-nominated “Jesus Camp.” I’m told this film is a combo of a doc and narrative feature, and she does a riveting and poignant job at presenting what was based on a true story.
We meet Ivan Gracia (Armando Espitia), who dreams of becoming a chef, and is given a variety of challenges along the way. Most of the challenges include how Mexico and the time period (most of which takes place before and during 1994) viewed homosexuality and what immigration can result in. For the gay side, there are moments involving abusive fathers, violent gangs, and secrets, which can throw things out of proportion. But that’s just putting it mildly. And for the immigration side, it’s risky.
On the other hand, though, we are able to gaze at the sentimentality at how the men live their lives through highs and lows. And since I’m no homophobic, I refer to them as “men.”
Ever since he was trying on his mother’s dresses as a child, little Ivan (Yael Tadeo) came to terms with his sexuality. As expected in the past, he had to survive by conceiving a son named Ricky (Paco Luna) with Paola (Michelle Gonzalez), who eventually finds out about his rainbows. His love for his teacher friend Gerardo Zabaleta (Christian Vazquez), whom he met at a gay bar, gives that away.
As a young adult, he has been trying to get a culinary job. For now, he’s a garbage and delivery boy. His boss claims he’s lucky to have a job at all, but he still acknowledges it’s a waste of his talents. So his option is to immigrate to America to seek out his dreams.
However, with almost every great dream, there is a price to pay. He has to leave his son, his boyfriend, and his childhood friend Sandra (Michelle Rodriguez-not the one you know) behind. The city he resides in is New York City, where he not only lands his dream job, but regrets leaving his loved ones behind; and given the fact that he’s an illegal alien, he can’t travel back home and come back to America. And BTW, I’m also told the real Ivan and Geraldo portray their older selves.
“I Carry You with Me” gets a little confusing at times, but we still see Ivan and Gerardo in their own worlds, and how they struggle to survive. It’s not just about their interests, but also job wise, since Ivan has better luck getting his dream job in American than in Mexico City. Espitia is excellent as Ivan in the way he presents his ambitions and passion , while Vazquez delivers the value and sensitivity as Gerardo. You also get some riveting supporting work from Rodriguez, and her best scenes are during and after she immigrates with Ivan to America with her fatness slowing them down.
Much to my surprise, the movie was executive-produced by Norman Lear, who changed the face of television sitcoms with “All In The Family,” “Good Times,” and “The Jeffersons,” among many others. He was also involved with the documentary “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It.” A double decker for him this month. But we must also give credit to Ewing and co-writer Alan Page for taking us into the world of these real-life lovers, and introducing us to some new faces, ones we hope we can see again.
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