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Featured TV on DVD Review: Don't Let Me Drown

October 14th, 2010

Don't Let Me Drown - Buy from Amazon

Don't Let Me Drown deals with the very immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack, which is a subject that is tricky to get right. This, plus its tiny budget, could explain why outside of playing in a few film festivals, the movie went direct-to-DVD. However, just because a film can't find a theatrical distributor doesn't mean it doesn't deserve a wide audience. Perhaps that's the case here.

The Movie

We are introduced to two families. First we meet Lalo and his family. They are poor Mexicans, at least that's their heritage. He points out that he was born in the States, when one of his friends threatens to call INS on him. His family is dealing with crippling poverty and never seem to have enough money to pay the rent and the bills. Worse still, his father is one of the many people that helped in the clean up effort, but were not given the proper safety equipment for political reasons. Now every night when he comes home, his health problems are getting more and more severe.

One night at a birthday party for a friend of his, Lalo meets Stefanie, a African-American girl (African-American via the Dominican Republic). Her family was directly touched by the attack on 9/11, as her sister was working in one of the towers. Her father is dealing with survivor's guilt and is emotionally unstable, most often taking it out on her mother.

Lalo is immediately smitten by Stefanie, but it takes a bit for her to feel the same way about him. However, they come from different backgrounds and the Mexicans and the Dominicans don't exactly get along with each other.

The movie is essentially two stories. The first is a cross-culture romance / coming of age story, while the second is about families dealing with tragedy and how that can tear a family apart. (There are also several subplots, but those are the two main stories.) The former is arguably the more satisfying of the two main stories, and E.J. Bonilla plays Lalo with the right mix of charisma and uncertainty that is needed to deal with a love story live this.

You can't deal with 9/11 without dealing with some political aspects, like the use of illegal immigrants to clean up the remains of the twin towers, while at the same time cracking down on illegal immigration. Or how the news saturated the airwaves with images of the attacks. Obviously footage of the attacks was newsworthy, but repeating the footage over and over again without adding and further understanding to the events is not. It becomes exploitation.

There are a few too many subplots running through the movie and that slows it down at times, but for the most part, director / co-writer Cruz Angeles has done an excellent job on his feature-length debut.

The Extras

Sadly, there are no extras on the DVD.

The Verdict

Don't Let Me Drown is a small independent film that was never able to find a theatrical distributor, which is a shame, as it really deserves to be seen by more people. It tells a story that is not exactly unique, but the lead actors infuse the main characters with right emotions to really make them feel real. The DVD has no extras, but it is still worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

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