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#InsideOut21 Review: I Carry You With Me

June 5, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2021 Inside Out Film Festival is running virtually from May 27th to June 6th, all films are available to stream for audiences across Ontario

The narrative feature debut of documentary filmmaker Heidi Ewing, I Carry You With Me is an often poignant immigrant drama that offers a mostly effective mix of non-fiction and dramatic storytelling, mixing actors with real footage of the subjects they are portraying.

The main character/subject in the film is Iván, a gay man from Mexico who makes the perilous trek across the border to the United States, both to escape the homophobia of his home country, and to realize his dreams of opening a restaurant in America. The film’s opening scene cuts back and forth between footage of the real life Iván in New York City, with flashes of Yael Tadeo and Armando Espita, the two actors who play him as both a boy and young man in Mexico.

We then flash back to his life in Puebla, Mexico circa 1994, where Iván (Espita) is an aspiring chef who can only get jobs in a kitchen as a dishwasher and cleaner, despite having a culinary degree. It’s here that he falls in love with Gerrardo (played by Christian Vázquez), a man that he meets in a gay bar. But Iván keeps his identity a secret, out of fear that he will no longer be allowed to see his young son, eventually making the tough decision to illegally cross the border.

The film switches back to documentary footage in the last act, showing the life that Iván has built for himself, with the tradeoff being that, as an undocumented immigrant, he is unable to safely return to Mexico. This narrative approach is interesting and gives the film a unique edge, but it also leaves a few gaps in the story, and the film doesn’t always feel fully fleshed out as either a documentary or narrative drama. But Ewing, who is working from a screenplay that she co-wrote with Alan Page, does capture a number of moving moments in both the narrative and documentary portions of the film.

The dramatic scenes are nicely carried by Espita, who delivers a sensitive performance. As much as this is a story about being gay in Mexico, it is also a story about the American Dream, and the sacrifices that have to be made to obtain it. Overall, I Carry You With Me is a touching and uniquely assembled film about the pieces of ourselves that we leave behind in search of a better life, and the physical barriers that stand in the way of going back home.

I Carry You With Me will be available to stream until June 6th at 11:59 PM. Tickets and more information can be found right here.

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