The ballad of Carmelo - Page 2

Romantico proves documentaries can be gorgeous and soulful

In their town of Salvatierra, less fortunate families routinely compel female members into prostitution to survive. Sanchez will do anything to shield his loved ones from that and from privation, even if it means painful separation from them. The more footloose Arias has fewer responsibilities. In fact, his tendency to fly off on benders of unpredictable duration is one of Sanchez's biggest headaches.

A dignified but unpretentious man nearing 60 at the film's start, Sanchez makes an engrossing hero, and he's very interested in telling his story. His whole life has been a struggle, its only goal that his children's lives not be. The reverse immigration journey of sorts that he undertakes is joyous because it leads to a family reunion. But it also soon underlines why he left in the first place: his earning prospects in Mexico, where his job options are limited to playing in mariachi bands and selling flavored ice from a pushcart for far less income, are a fragment of what they were off the grid in the United States. With getting a legal worker's visa near impossible, he must consider a second dangerous border crossing at an age when many Northern gringos mull retirement. This isn't a matter of creature comforts — it's about money to keep his daughters alive, in school, and off the streets.

At just 80 minutes in length, Romántico doesn't dawdle. Yet it has a contemplative tenor seldom found in contemporary documentaries, and the frequent beauty of its images is amplified by Raz Mesinai's ethereal instrumental score as well as the mini–passion plays Sanchez and Arias sing. Like those theatrically despairing, sometimes suicidal, and frequently sexist songs of love gone wrong, Romántico is seductive in its melancholy — and so easily overwhelms emotional defenses that you'll probably find yourself desperate to know what's happened to Sanchez and Arias since the end of filming. *


Opens Fri/19


Shattuck Cinemas

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