Thursday, January 30, 2020

Sundance with Abe: Blast Beat

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the seventh time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can, as well as video reviews uploaded to YouTube.

Blast Beat
Directed by Esteban Arango
U.S. Dramatic Competition

People moving to the United States look forward to different things. For many, the American dream represents a chance to start fresh and achieve anything, with boundless opportunities and optimism to be found around every corner. While that isn’t always the case, especially for those who don’t “look” like the typical American or can’t speak the language, a move is usually met with excitement. Those within the same family, however, may disagree based on what they want to do with their lives and where they think offers them the brightest possibilities.

As a result of unrest and threats, Ernesto (Wilmer Valderrama) departs Colombia to start a life for his family in Atlanta. Soon after, his sons Carly (Mateo Arias) and Mateo (Moises Arias) follow with his wife (Diane Guerrero). Carly is ecstatic about the chance to apply to a scientific institute in Georgia so that he can pursue a career at NASA, while Mateo misses his friend at home and expresses sarcastic excitement at the idea of becoming obese. The two brothers clash with each other and those who look down on them, struggling to adjust to a new life.

This film is a compelling portrait of the immigrant experience, with classmates at the boys’ new school dismissing their confirmation of their home country as just a part of Mexico and taunting them because of the shade of their skin. But this film is also laced with humor and personality, with Carly and Mateo still acting like kids in certain respects while focusing on their true ambitions, science for Carly and drawing for Mateo. Their parents are supportive and kind but also rely on their children to make an effort, something they don’t always do, especially when they pick fights with each other.

This film’s greatest success is casting real-life brothers as its protagonists. Though Moises plays Mateo and is actually older, their onscreen chemistry is fantastic, and both bring such entertaining energy to their performances. Their roles feel lived-in, and their interactions with others are just as terrific as with each other. They should both have long and worthwhile careers ahead of them if anyone with authority over casting sees this movie. The impressive debut of director Esteban Arango is funny, unique, and memorable, showcasing what it means to be a family and to go through major changes both apart and together, mixing comedy and drama in a seamless, captivating way.


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