The 58th New York Film Festival is now in the books for this year, both in terms of the fest itself and also in terms of the coverage here at Awards Radar. One final review is here in I Carry You With Me, an emotional drama that is quite melancholic, but also an important international LGBTQ romance. To say there’s not many movies of that ilk there is an understatement. Luckily, this film does a good job depicting a love story we don’t see nearly enough on the screen. Done well, it closes out NYFF with a story that stays with you after the credits roll.
I Carry You With Me represents documentarian Heidi Ewing‘s first narrative solo feature, and it’s a good debut in that regard. Best known for her work with filmmaking partner Rachel Grady (their documentary Jesus Camp is likely what you know her from, if the name rings a bell), Ewing displays a strong sense of empathy here. She feels for her characters, and that goes a long way towards giving you that feeling as well. Her cast is up to the task, but Ewing and her direction is what you’ll remember most.
Taking place in both Puebla City and New York City, the story begins in Mexico and follows an aspiring chef in Ivan (Armando Espitia), a hopeful man stuck washing dishes and not using his culinary degree to its full potential. There’s a sense that he’s in neutral, which is sensed by his friend Sandra (Michelle Rodriguez). She takes him out one night to a club, where Ivan comes across Gerardo (Christian Vasquez). Quickly, they catch each other’s eye and begin a slow romance, one that builds over time. As they grow closer, still keeping their love somewhat of a secret, Ivan opts to cross the border, hoping to better provide for his child from a prior relationship.
Looking for a better life in New York City, Ivan and Sandra leave Mexico, though only he’s able to cross over. Back in Puebla City, Gerardo misses Ivan and contemplates following along. In New York, Ivan struggles once more, despite being able to live an openly gay life. Of course, that’s just the start of their story, with more sacrifices and struggles to come for them both.
Filmmaker Heidi Ewing loses none of her observational skills here, depicting a bittersweet romance with melancholy, but also a sharp eye. Ewing’s sense of pacing could be a little tighter, as things don’t necessarily need to be almost two hours long, but it’s a small issue. Mostly, she focuses on stark visuals, a relatable love story, and a sense of realism. Ewing and her direction is on point, as is her screenplay, co-written with Alan Page. Both are observational in nature, so Ewing and Page are well equipped to tell this story, especially in this way. Though not quite Terrence Malick-like in its attempts at visual emotion, there’s a style on display here for sure. There is also solid work from Armando Espitia and Christian Vasquez, with capable supporting work from Michelle Rodriguez, though Espitia and Vasquez stand out.
I Carry You With Me wraps up our coverage of the New York Film Festival for 2020, and it does so in emotional fashion. Even if it doesn’t quite hit home perfectly, Ewing and her cast do much more right than they do wrong. Honestly, aside from the slack pacing, this is rather strong work, suggesting that Ewing should continue pursuing narrative features in the future. If she does, I know I’ll be eager to see it, and you should be too.