July 30th, 2020
MOVIE: THE CUBAN
DIRECTED BY: SERGIO NAVARRETTA
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
What I kept thinking about while watching The Cuban was that there was not a single villain in this movie. It’s incredibly refreshing to watch a movie where the characters have depth and an inherent goodness. Director Sergio Navarretta and writer Alessandra Piccione, not only have made a movie about an uncommon friendship, but they have made a movie that discovers the best side of people. And sure, there is a bit of conflict in this story, but everything is well intentioned. It’s also a good thing to have two veteran actors in Louis Gossett Jr. and Shohreh Aghdashloo, both raising the level of the script, bouncing off the youthful and delightful lead Ana Golja. The Cuban is about a college nursing student that develops a friendship with an elderly man, struggling with dementia, through the power of Cuban music. The Cuban is an adorable and gentle film worthy of praise in a world in desperate need of light.
I won’t sugar coat things, The Cuban is a lower budget, independent film that often goes unnoticed by audiences today. I wavered a bit about if it was a movie worthy of 3 stars or 2 ½, but either way it is around that rating. What raised my appreciation for it was how accessible, kind, and honest it was in a portrayal of characters. The story begins with Mina (Ana Golja), a nursing student, living with her aunt Bano (Shohreh Aghdashloo), who happens to be the director of a nursing home. It is where Mina will conduct her residency, learning the right way to care for the elderly in need. For Mina though, she looks for more than just doing the standard practices with her patience. Although head nurse Baker (Lauren Holly) tries to guide her, Mina finds a gentle connection with a patient named Luis Garcia (Louis Gossett Jr.), and the two create a bond, listening to music and helping Luis remember his glory days.
The good things about The Cuban raised my level of enjoyment here. It repeats itself a bit too much, but not without a purpose. Most scenes consist of Mina and Luis connecting over things that inject life into us. Beautiful music, a home cooked meal, instead of the bland nursing home food, which is then followed by a scolding to Mina about how getting his hopes up is the wrong thing to do. It’s not that there hasn’t been movies about friendships between an elderly person and a younger person looking to bring back their youth. Many come to mind, such as The Hero, I’ll See You in my Dreams, or more recently The Farewell. And I don’t think The Cuban is as good as the latter movies, but it’s an extremely adorable film. Gossett Jr. turns in some of his best work, revealing his humanity with facial expressions, gentle laughs with Mina, and an honest example of someone struggling to remember himself each day. The other impressive factor, something that Sergio Navarretta is clearly aware of, but the star Ana Golja elevates the material. Her chemistry with Gossett Jr. and with Aghdashloo creates scenes of laughter, tension, emotion, and genuine drama. Her performance will have audiences falling in love with her character and the friendships bonded on the screen.
So yes, is The Cuban an independent film that has a bit less to say than most big budget productions? Sure. But it is also a nice and welcoming film of multicultural people, bonding over living and finding happiness. The relationship between Mina and Luis is a genuine one, complete with moments of dancing, listening to music, and nights out on the town, all of it for a man hoping to remember his lost love and a slice of life. That’s the best way to describe The Cuban. This movie is a slice of life. Director Sergio Navarretta has gathered a collection of strong veteran actors and rising stars, in a genuinely kind movie. I would say that The Cuban is the kind of movie that makes your heart sing.
Written by: Leo Brady