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Over the Borderline

I-carry-you-with-me-te-llevo-conmigo-movie-review-armando-espitia-christian-vázquez
Alejandro Lopez Pineda/Sony Pictures Classics

MOVIE REVIEW
I Carry You With Me (Te Llevo Conmigo) (2021)

Though based on a true story, the synopsis of “I Carry You With Me” nevertheless reads like a liberal guilt bingo card: It’s the story of gay undocumented immigrants from Mexico. To escape poverty, lack of opportunity and a straight family, aspiring chef Iván (Armando Espitia) illegally crosses the border. His well-to-do lover, Gerardo (Christian Vázquez), fails to obtain a visa and forfeits his university teaching job and generational wealth in order to join Iván in New York. Even as they work their way up, the lack of a path to citizenship necessarily means that they will never again visit their loved ones back home.

The film takes interest in these characters only as signifiers and not human beings, so the viewer will walk away not knowing who they are and what makes them tick even after being told their entire life stories. Cinematographer Juan Pablo Ramírez shot the film in that unmistakable indiewood style also seen in “Nomadland,” with the real-life Iván’s voiceover narrations waxing poetic over the reenactments. We’re to witness the wringer these characters go through without seeing how it makes them feel.

At one point, we’re presented the FaceTime footage of Iván’s son, Ricky, complaining, presumably to Iván, about his inability to obtain a visa and not seeing his dad for two decades. But we’re not privy to a single frame of reaction from Iván, as if director-co-writer Heidi Ewing has deemed Iván and Gerardo personae non gratae and only the overall ordeal and trauma is suitable conversation fodder for those who can afford Angelika Film Center’s $18 price of admission. The fact that Iván does achieve his American dream somewhat lessens the blow of his not being able to reunite with his son, sparing moviegoers the unpleasantry of having to consider the undocumented essential workers they come in contact with every day who don’t ever get to live out their own dreams.

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