Ah, young love. So innocent, pure and honest. When the whole world starts and ends with your significant other. When you're not around that person all seems incomplete and pointless. And when she breaks up with you, all you desire is the world and everyone in it to burn and to share your suffering! Now, what has gotten me in such a “romantic” mood? Why, it's the movie “Don't let me drown” of course. Let's take a look at it!
When Lalo isn't at school he spends most of his days hanging with his friends and cruising the streets on his bicycle; you know, doing the whole “smoking and joking” on the block thing. He seems to be a happy-go-lucky teen but he's actually burdened by harsh living conditions in Brooklyn. His family hardly makes due on the rent of the apartment and his father works clean-up detail at Ground Zero. This is New York a couple of months or possibly weeks after the 9/11 attacks.
|That awkward moment when your mother makes you bring |
an embarrassing present to your friend. That's OD indeed.
When going to the birthday party of his best friend, Lalo spots Stefanie. She's quiet and closed as Lalo awkwardly shares his rather naive views on the September 11 attacks. Stefanie rudely shuts him up and walks off. Beneath her short tempered, tough girl act is a very sensitive girl. She's having to cope with not only the death of her sister (who was actually in one of the Twin Towers) but also with her parents constantly fighting. Especially her father who is unable to cope with the loss of his daughter, Crystal.
Through a series of misadventures, Lalo and Stefanie connect on a deeper level. They complement each other. He softens her hardened heart and she eases his troubled mind. But as life would have it, trouble is looming on the horizon for these young lovers.
|Your dad treating you like a nine year old. OD as well!|
I love the simplicity of this story. It doesn't rely on contrived story clichés as seen in many movies based on Nicolas Sparks' books. The script written by Cruz Angeles and Maria Topete is strong and smart enough to understand that life itself is hard enough. Lalo and Stefanie wanting to be together and at the same time having to deal with their own demons is drama enough. There is also no need for ridiculous subplots. The movie instead has subtle side tangents highlighting the friends and family of the young leads but it is focused enough to lead us right back to Lalo and Stefanie's journey.
The performances of the younger actors might come of a little wooden at times but Cruz Angeles understands these kids, their slang and how they would interact with each other. His excellent direction gets the most out of their performances and makes you overlook this. This is nothing more than a pet peeve. The veteran actors are superb. They bring their A game to this and deliver in full spades.
|That first fight...Also, OD!|
Quite fitting as it is, the heart of the movie are our two leads. E.J. Bonilla and Gleendilys Inoa as Lalo and Stefanie are wonderful. Their characters aren't your cookie cutter teenagers. Stefanie is loud, short tempered and at one point even plays games with Lalo's feelings. He in his turn isn't smooth or suave. His attempts at romance towards Stefanie are awkward and clumsy at best. When they do grow toward each other you really root for them. Their chemistry together is great and their intimate moments together are genuinely sweet and tender. There are no “sticking your finger in your throat” moments.
|In the end everything works out. Now, that's sweet!|
D'aaaaawww, they are so cute together!
So, why did I connect to this movie where other romantic movies fail me? I guess, because it is recognizable, because it doesn't shy away from the ugly side of life and love, because it shows what can be accomplished when two persons decide to walk the same road, because at one point in life I was Lalo and I've met my own version of Stefanie. It is because above all, this movie is sincere.
I hope that one day, Cruz Angeles does like Richard Linkletter and revisits these characters. I want to know what happens to Lalo and Stefanie. Where they are now in life and if they are still together.”Don't let me Drown” is well written, funny, sweet and gives us more than most romantic movies offer us; namely honesty. I can't recommended this movie enough.