There are probably very few of us that could have our love tested relentlessly over decades and survive. Unlike this epic-length romance between two gay Mexican men who had to deal with a seemingly never-ending onslaught of issues of culture, country, and laws but still have you gripping your seat in fear that it may collapse at any moment.
The remarkable aspect of director Heidi Ewing’s compelling film is that is all based on a very true story. This all starts back in conservative and rural Mexico when a look across a gay bar leads to an instant attraction between two closeted young men.
Ivan (Armando Espitia), separated from his wife, with whom he has a young son, works long, sweaty shifts washing dishes at a restaurant for very meager wages. Although he graduated from culinary school, he is unable to get any other employment in the kitchen, even preparing vegetables.
Gerardo (Christian Vázquez) on the other hand is a teacher from a comfortable, land-owning family. That first night they meet in the bar they slowly circle each other up but by the time the sun rises they share a very passionate first kiss, totally unaware where this will all lead to.
Throughout the film, there is a series of flashbacks that show the two men as young boys and how their upbringing defined their attitudes to keeping their sexuality quiet. Things come to a head when Ivan’s wife discovers the truth about he ex-husband and bans him from ever seeing their son again. It is the final straw as that (and Geraldo) is the only decent thing that Ivan thinks is worth living for.
So, Ivan decides to cross he has no alternative than to illegally cross the border for a better life, even though it will mean leaving his child and boyfriend behind. Against all odds, he makes it to NY even though it meant abandoning his injured friend Sandra en route. It however doesn’t take him long to realize that even in America the land of opportunity the reality for him is doing the same menial jobs he did in Mexico.
Back in Mexico, as the years pass by, Gerardo misses Ivan and thinks of crossing the border to be with him. When they do eventually reunite in the U.S., the film flashes forward, actually incorporating documentary footage of Gerardo and Ivan’s life in New York, where Ewing befriended them in 2012.
Now at this part of this remarkable rags to riches story where Ivan has achieved the goal of owning a very successful restaurant, he suddenly starts considering actually returning to Mexico. For some unknown reason, the US Authorities will not issue the young man with a Visa. On the other hand, Ivan can’t go back to Mexico because he entered the country illegally, so does go, he may never be allowed back in the US.
No spoilers here but after the relentless pain, angst, and hostile bigotry Ivan and Geraldo had to endure to get this far, we feel for the very real dilemma they are now facing.
Ewing doesn’t dwell on the ramifications of the impossible scenarios facing would-be Mexican migrants which, if anything, have worsened, since the start of this story . The added element of the men’s sexuality meant that if they hadn’t risked new lives abroad then living as gay men in rural conservative Mexico would probably be an equally horrifying prospect.
Despite this unsettling political and socio-economic background, it is the men’s exceptional real love story that has sustained them over the decades is that raises your spirits as you watch their lives unfold. It is a story of hope, determination, unselfishness ….. and most of all love. Totally Unmissable
Sony Pictures Classics will be releasing his Sundance Award-winning film in select US movie theaters in JuneJuly