Tropic Sprockets / I Carry You With Me

By Ian Brockway

“I Carry You With Me,” a debut narrative film by Heidi Ewing (Jesus Camp) is heartfelt, affectionate and understated.

Ivan (Armando Espitia) is a young man in Puebla, Mexico, who strives to become a chef. He does janitorial work at a local restaurant. Though he has credentials, Ivan cannot secure a chef position.

One night with his friend Sandra (Michelle Rodriguez), he goes to a bar. As they are talking, a pinprick of red light dances on his chest. Fear ensues. Is it a laser track from a rifle? No. It is a detached and watchful young man, Gerardo (Christian Vazquez), with a laser pointer. Ivan is intrigued by the laconic man.

In flashbacks we see Ivan as a young boy (Yael Tadeo) trying on his mother’s quinceanera dresses with Sandra. Ivan’s aggressive father (Pascasio Lopez) fumes. Ivan fears being ostracized by his homophobic family. Worse, he might be killed by the people of Puebla if word gets out. Ivan also has a child.

Ivan and Gerardo grow closer, but Ivan vows to go to New York. Gerardo can’t commit to life in America. Ivan makes the painful journey across the border with Sandra. The two best friends make it together. But once in New York, Ivan is tormented with guilt, wanting Gerardo on one side and missing his son Ricky (Paco Luna) on the other.

Ivan has dreams of struggle and longing infused with magenta and black lace— the colors of Mexico. Faces float alongside him like soft, caressing balloons that beckon him forward, only to vanish into the cement facades of New York City skyscrapers. Ivan is left in a nocturnal America drenched in sweat. In New York, homophobia is replaced by xenophobia and disdain for immigrants. Gerardo makes it in New York as a teacher and Ivan becomes a head chef. Still there is fear. One wrong move and either of them might be deported.

To compound matters, Ivan has not seen Ricky in twenty years and his son is becoming incredulous regarding his father’s parental bond. Ivan has to make a choice and both options are sure to deliver pain and sacrifice.

Over time, Ivan is more and more driven to make his famous mole, and the rich sauce with several spices is the sole chocolate road that can carry him to Puebla, his waking memories now hazy and indistinct.

“I Carry You With Me” is a naturalistic slice of life work based on a true story that has subtlety and calm, yet it is also apprehensive and disquieting. The realm of the dream makes for both comforting and disturbing company.

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