Tender and bittersweet, I Carry You With Me (dir. by Heidi Ewig) soars with a delicacy that goes straight to the heart.
In a gay bar in Puebla, Mexico, Iván (Armando Espitia) and Gerardo (Christian Vázquez) have a chance encounter. Their connection is instantaneous and the two quickly fall for each other. Iván is an aspiring chef and has a young son, while Gerardo teaches at a local university. After realizing that his dishwashing gig isn’t getting him anywhere and unable to truly show the world who he is, Iván knows he has to leave. He decides to take the risk and travel to the US with the help of a coyote. He arrives in New York with high hopes, but the distance he has with Gerardo places a strain on his daily life. Eventually, Gerardo can’t stand the distance and travels to New York to be with him.
Based on a true story, this film follows the push and pull of not only their relationship, but the strain distance has on the relationship between Iván and his son. Some of the most compelling moments in the film come from this emotional fallout. In one voiceover sequence, Iván asks, “¿Alguna vez has soñado que regresas a Mexico?”, Have you ever dreamed that you return to Mexico? This question is simple but charged with poignant nostalgia. The ache of leaving a home never leaves. It burrows itself into you, into the little moments, into the mundane. It’s a revelation into the bitter truth of what the the cost of the American Dream can be — time.
Visually, the film feels soft, especially during any of the outdoor scenes. Sunrises, sunsets, and night sequences float on screen with an almost gauzy grace. The camera captures the chemistry between the leads in much of the same way. It lingers on their faces, soaking in every emotion that flickers in their eyes.
It was a pleasant surprise to see the real Iván and Gerardo dominate the later half of the film through documentary style scenes of their current lives. Their introduction takes you out of the moment and forces you, the viewer, to internally reconfigure the direction of the movie. The slight whiplash makes way for an interesting narrative choice by the director and one that makes the film truly stand out.
In I Carry You With Me, barriers are both physical and emotional. Wrapped inside this carefully constructed portrait of a love story, are themes that will resonate with anyone who is an immigrant or is part of an immigrant family. It’s a film about leaving and loving and how they both can sometimes feel the same.