July 9th, 2021
MOVIE: I CARRY YOU WITH ME
STARRING: ARMANDO ESPITIA, CHRISTIAN VAZQUEZ, MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ
DIRECTED BY: HEIDI EWING
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (O ut of 4)
Just a week ago we got another Purge movie, which was violently rooted in exploiting the immigrant experience and turning it into a strange production of a masochistic fantasy. It’s certainly not the fair kind of interpretation of what represents a person that’s been a victim, struggled, and fought for their survival, with hopes for a better life in America. When you add the other people affected by this decision, if you had a romance, where one person must leave the other behind, all while risking it all to live more prosperously. I Carry You with Me is exactly that story, about Ivan (Aramndo Espitia), living in Puebla, Mexico, trying his best to provide for his son, with aspirations of becoming a chef, all of it hindered by the lack of work opportunities. And as a gay man, Mexico still treats members of the community as outcasts, no matter how much progress has been made in the world. When Ivan meets Gerardo (Christian Vazquez) his life is instantly flipped, where his goal of leaving for America is not an easy decision, because now he truly has something in Mexico he wants to stay behind for. I Carry You with Me is a romantic journey, filled with the trials and tribulations of love, in the face of insurmountable odds that an immigrant faces on a daily basis.
The screenplay is written by director Heidi Ewing and Alan Page and although it is a two handed story, told with a delicate grace for the two characters, the plot for I Carry You with Me starts compact and pulls out farther with each moment. We meet Ivan working as a barback, clearing tables, doing dishes, and looking at the cooks with a jealous eye. When he asks his boss about an open line-cook spot, he learns it’s been filled, and although he’s been patient, his waiting is over. Additionally, Ivan also struggles daily with the mother of his child- Paola (Michelle Gonzalez), who is constantly pressuring him to work, and only allowing minimal visitation with his son. Their connection is held to the chest, but one can glean that Ivan was never into Paola, succumbing to the pressures of heterosexuality, and accidents happen. On top of this, it’s not like anyone around Ivan approves of him being gay, his only solace is his friend Sandra (Michelle Rodriguez), willing to give him an ear to bend or take him to the club.
The next part is where Ivan and Gerardo meet, which is done in a cute fashion, involving Gerardo directing a laser pointer at Ivan, which quickly sparks up a conversation, and an instant attraction. It’s within the few romantic moments and a conversation walking in a quiet calm night in Mexico, where this relationship blossoms. The love grows and eventually Gerardo is inviting Ivan to meet his parents, still stuck lying about what their relationship actually is, and conjuring memories for Gerardo of traumatic periods where his father hit him. This common bond of similar persecution strengthens the love the two have for one another, but when Ivan becomes fed up with his situation, he embarks on the trek across the border, leaving Gerardo behind, and their love in jeopardy.
One of my favorite things about I Carry You with Me is how Ewing effortlessly blends the narrative into something more than just meet cutes or rom-com tropes. There’s a genuine authenticity to the look of it and slowly, but surely, to my surprise, Ewing melts in actual documentary footage of Ivan’s real life. I shouldn’t be surprised, considering Ewing is the Oscar nominated director for the documentary Jesus Camp, which also revealed an ugly side of humans, but truthfully captured incredibly human moments. We see more documentary footage of Ivan in New York, his life prospering, but back and forth he’s contemplating the love he left behind. Seeing the plot all the way through is a chance to catch romance and resilience in these circumstances.
Production wise, I Carry You with Me is a top example of independent filmmaking, while also displaying the unique ways directors can tell a narrative today. Much like the rocky ground that Ivan walks over, Ewing navigates rugged terrain, displaying a seldom used way of telling a story and the narrative is much better for it. Although the pacing can be a tad bit slow at times- which did hinder me from being over the moon on this- but what Ewing does not shy away from is the total story, giving just enough from the characters to know where they stand in the world. The honesty of it all- portrayed wonderfully by lead Espitia and co-star Vazquez- it reveals the bitter truth about a man sacrificing it all, for a chance to value his life, and live without the fear of rejection. There’s grand raw emotions in I Carry You with Me and watching it will force you to walk in these characters’ shoes, no matter how many miles, no matter how many times you hear a story like this, it’s important.
I CARRY YOU WITH ME IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS JULY 9TH
Written by: Leo Brady