Entre Nos Review

Have you ever heard of David Riker’s 1998 film The City? This half-film, half-social experiment mixed actual immigrants (their legal status is anyone’s guess) with professional actors to put forward a semi-authentic experience cloaked by a conventional storyline. Watching Entre Nos, written and directed by Gloria Le Morte and Paola Mendoza, who also stars as the lead Mariana, I could not shake the feeling that I’ve seen it all before, better executed and more resonant. Entre Nos is an intimate character study that never rises above simply showcasing the day-in-day-out struggle of a newly immigrated mother and her two children.

Arguably, that may be enough and the film does not hesitate to tug on the heartstrings as Mariana treks from Colombia to New York City with her two children, Andrea (Laura Montana) and Gabriel (Sebastian Villada), in tow. They are six and ten, respectively and their mother is the only source of care they’ve had for some time, as their father had left the family behind to establish a new home for them in Jackson Heights, Queens. The drama kicks into gear when Mariana finds herself abandoned by her husband and forced to survive with an increasingly desperate set of circumstances – she doesn’t know a word of English, has been evicted from her apartment and may well be pregnant again.

Not to take away from the actual suffering experienced by both legal and illegal immigrants in the country, but the heaping of troubles onto the protagonist went a long way in diffusing whatever message La Morte and Mendoza are putting in clear effort to get across. Surely, the film is a moving piece of neo-realist toil, as Mariana finds herself consistently outmatched by a world that often seems as if  it doesn’t want her in it. That she remains steadfast and optimistic is strangely off-putting but also understandable and Ms. Mendoza’s performance is key to grounding the viewer in a palpable reality rather than the prototypical immigrant worker’s experience. In her efforts to provide for her children, Mariana tries her hand at selling empanadas, collects cans, and waits alongside day laborers for that rare piece of backbreaking labor. It is a familiar story, especially to those of us residing in major cities.

In terms of filmmaking, Entre Nos is shot with an eye for depressing composition and edited with a skill for emotional devastation. This does sound partially manipulative but it's not fair to call the film a feel-bad experience when it is rooted in an experience that feels very private and personal (it is, in fact, based on the story of Mendoza’s own mother and by extension, Mendoza’s childhood). To tell you how the film ends or whether Mariana’s struggles get her to that treasured place of home and comfort would be self-defeating. The aim of Entre Nos is seemingly to make you feel the weight of her experience, when tomorrow only brings more pain and nothing is certain, when a struggle is inevitable and time does not bring closure. For this honesty alone, Entre Nos is commendable but does suffer from a too narrow focus on the family, which in the end, does not make for the most interesting viewing.

DVD Bonus Features

I’m happy to say that the array of features included with Entre Nos is impressive and rise above the average indie film’s extras offerings. First is the director’s commentary, in which those interested in the experience of Mendoza adaptation of her life to film will certainly get their listen’s worth. Fourteen minutes of behind the scenes footage is included, although it is mostly casting reads.

Probably the most interesting extra is an eight-minute short film directed by Mendoza. Titled “Still Standing”, it chronicles the recovery that her grandmother undertakes after Hurricane Katrina devastates her life in Waveland, Ms. A cute 5-minute “How to Make Empanadas” featurette and a PSA on immigration reform clocking in at 2 minutes round out the extras.

"Entre Nos" is on sale July 20, 2010 and is not rated. Drama, Indie. Directed by Gloria La Morte, Paola Mendoza. Written by Paola Mendoza, Gloria Le Morte. Starring Laura Montana, Paola Mendoza, Sebastian Villada.

Mark Zhuravsky • Staff Writer

I'm a prolific blogger, writer and editor who loves film.


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