Revolving around a tender true love story, this first narrative feature from seasoned documentary director Heidi Ewing (which won a couple of awards at Sundance) is a fascinating – though at times uneven – blend of film styles. Alternating between fictional re-enactments and real-life vignettes, it is a hybrid drama that charts the relationship between Ivan and Gerardo, two undocumented Mexican immigrants living in the US.
The evocative rumbles of the New York subway train act as an enigmatic conduit to Ivan’s youth in the Mexican city of Puebla. Bearing a striking resemblance to the real-life character, Armando Espitia portrays the young Ivan with a raffish charm. Struggling with a dead-end job and unable to provide for his son from a previous relationship, Ivan finds solace in his love-at-first-sight romance with the more privileged Gerardo, whose younger self is played by Christian Vázquez. Despite their differing backgrounds, the pair share similar emotional turmoil and guilt, fostered by their inability to live openly as a gay couple in early 1990s メキシコ.
From this starting point, the film captures the immigrant experience in all its variety, filled with both joy and pain: from Ivan’s risky border-crossing to the moving reunion between the pair in the US. While Ewing’s aim for well-rounded characters is admirable, the fictional portion lacks a steady editorial hand, leaving the sequence of events muddled and unfocused. Ewing’s direction feels much more confident in the later documentary sequences, where the handheld cinematography lends an intimacy to the decades-long rapport between the two men.
Now an established restaurateur, Ivan is still unable to go back to Mexico to visit his son, who in turn cannot get a visa to travel to the US. His reflections on this existential limbo and the fragility of memory – Ivan, 例えば, can no longer recall his now-deceased father’s favourite chilli – prove to be the film’s most powerful aspects.
I Carry You With Me is released on 17 September on digital platforms.