Release Date: April 3
Directors: Anna Boden and Ryan
Writers: Anna Bodden and Ryan
Cinematographer: Andrij Parekh
Starring: Algenis Perez Soto,
Rayniel Rufino, Andre Holland, Ann Whitney
Studio Information: Sony
Pictures Classics, 120 mins.
Sugar, the second film by the
young writer-director duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, follows a
promising baseball pitcher named Miguel—nicknamed Sugar—from his
home in the Dominican Republic through a series of minor league teams
in the U.S. This isn’t The Natural, but rather a
naturalistic view of the underside of professional baseball, where
young men are chasing the American dream in its most iconic form,
facing culture shock and loneliness in the process. I don’t
remember seeing this aspect of the game on the big screen before, and
the peek behind the curtain is fascinating, but Sugar is, more
than anything else, a character study of a particular young man, not
an indictment of the system. And as you might expect from the writers
and directors of Half Nelson, the film pays far more attention
to the details of Miguel’s life than it does a dramatic arc.
Half Nelsonnuanced character study, an audacious inversion of a Hollywood
chestnut (the inspirational high school teacher), and a political
allegory, all in one. Sugarinteracting with the world than Ryan Gosling’s character in Half
Nelson. The Brooklyn school teacher was a verbal, conflicted, and
defeated political animal, but Miguel is an innocent who barely
speaks English and is wholly unprepared for the nest of confusion
that he’s about foment in his heart.
Sugar is a simpler film than
Half Nelson, but in many ways it resembles the highly
respected first feature by Ousmane Sembène, Black Girl
(La noire de, 1966), about a young woman who moves from
Senegal to the south of France and feels domesticated by a white
upper class. Fittingly, the political barbs are softer in Sugar,
as I suspect they are in Miguel’s own thoughts.
cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is particularly stirring
late in the film. And whether the conclusion is a frustrating side
step or a personal triumph depends on whether you’ve taken the
film’s many opportunities to understand Miguel. I found it sublime.