Mr. H. Gieschen | London | 02/09/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I am not specifically a fan of Humberto Solas, but this is the by far the best film I have seen by him. Great acting by Jorge Perrugorria as ever. If you expect an overtly critical film against the Castro regime, this it is not. How else could the film have passed the government censor? It gives a sense of pain though of the separation between the island and the exile, which is the fault of both sides on the political divide. It alludes to the discrimination against those Cubans who move to other provinces without government approval to seek a better life as they are referred to in Cuban slang as Palestinians due to their refugee status. It alludes to the spirituality and faith in religion by the Cuban nation trying to fill the void left by the Castro regime. It mentions the economic shortages that is Castro's legacy to his people and the obsession with rescue from abroad while the avenue of political improvement is not available due to Castro's political roadblocks.
This is a film where you have to be willing to read between the lines. Forget about illogical sequences and a muddled timelines. Read it as a fairy tale, perhaps the one all Cubans are hoping for, but at heart it is about humanity. Barrio means neighbourhood, Cuba is a small island and everyone is in the same boat. Tthe experience of Eastern Europe could be repeated where the solidarity in misery will be abandoned when there will be greater freedom. One day films like this will be historical documents of a uniqe period in human and Cuban history. Watch the film."
Reconciliation and return
Daniel B. Clendenin | www.journeywithjesus.net | 04/23/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This award-winning film from Havana follows the struggles of three multi-generational families. Sweltering heat, dilapidated buildings, a dysfunctional economy, and a spartan diet ("We're having beans and rice again because that's what the grocery had") are only the beginning of their deeply human struggles. Magalis bikes to her job as a nurse and attracts all the wrong sort of men-- an aging carpenter who's hopelessly in love with her, a no-good cheater, and a rich Italian, but her real challenge is the fight between her dictatorial father and her gay brother. When Maria dies in childbirth her husband Santos flees, leaving the grandmother to raise the boy and to salvage the son's image of his absent father. In the third story, the engineer Chino and his pharmacist wife Vivian suffer a miscarriage, and with it the expectations of their parents for a grandchild, both of which are aggravated by a sibling who flees with his family from Cuba. The three stories are not connected in the film, except for a common theme -- people who flee their problems then face the challenge to return for reconciliation. The problems are real, but their resolutions are contrived."
A visually rich tear jerker
Leif A. Johnson | 08/24/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"One of the widely overlooked aspects of contemporary Cuba is the peoples' faith. A diverse nation, there is no monolithic religious machine. Faith is nurtured and passed along in the practices of the diverse peoples. The Latin churches stand as monuments to past riches, the African pantheon lives on in the daily rituals of celebration divination, while various liberal religious tenets are echoed in the humanistic rhetoric of the Party's governance.
The filmmakers pull a tear out of our savoring the riches and poverty that are modern Cuba. The film could be set on just about any Caribbean island, or any enclave in a marginalized country, where people struggle with tradition, desire, pain and hope.
I recommend it for the visual texture of sweat, sex, work, narrowing shelter, play and aging. The film is sad and rich, like the prayers which the screenplay's characters play out in their dialog, or too much chocolate before bedtime."