Premier Baseball’s Latin American slave trade route and the immigrant experience go under the microscope in this offbeat and compelling character study from the makers of 2006’s Half Nelson.
Miguel Santos (Algenis Perez Soto) aka Sugar is a wannabe pitcher from a poor town in the Dominican Republic. Struggling to make it into the big league and pull himself and his family out of poverty, he finally makes it in the US minor leagues. When he is shipped into America with a bunch of other Dominican rookies he realises that success in the land of the free comes with a healthy dose of corporate greed, isolation, casual bigotry and loneliness. When an injury puts him on the bench he has to choose whether to return home or go in search of a different kind of American Dream.
With their ‘good teacher with a bad drug habit’ drama Half Nelson (starring everyone’s favourite young method actor Ryan Gosling), writer/directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden showed they were no strangers to ideological complexity and dab hands at genre bemusement. Working on a level of sophistication and courage that leaves many of their low-budget counterparts in the dust, Sundance favourites Boden and Fleck have a way of leading the viewer into the most unexpected of places. Sentimentality and humour are frequently born of desperation but the humanity they bring to sketching even the most subsidiary characters has a way of warming the coldest heart.
With fine performances from an unknown cast and Andrij Parekh’s bleachy and steady lens work (owing a debt to that of Vilmos Zsigmond’s 70s work on The Hired Hand and Sugarland Express) Sugar is a unique and precious coming of age drama. That Boden and Fleck can’t help but undermine all their great work by resorting to that most infuriating of sports film clichés – the montage sequence – is a small price to pay.
Selected release from Fri 19 Jun.