Mendoza, Sebastian Villada, Laura Montana, Anthony Chisholm,
While Entre Nos will
undoubtedly remind some people of The Pursuit of Happyness,
there are a number of reasons why you should check this gritty
independent flick out.
Inspired by the life of
writer and co-director Paola Mendoza's mother, Entre Nos tells
the story of one immigrant's struggles to care for her family
in the streets of New York. Mariana, also portrayed by
Paola Mendoza, is a Colombian immigrant with two small
children, Gabriel and Sebastian. After arriving in
America to reconnect with her children's father, Mariana
suddenly finds herself abandoned with no money and virtually
no grasp of English.
From making empanadas to
rifling through trash for soda cans to recycle, Mariana finds
herself in an unrelenting pressure cooker. What follows
is a journey of pain, frustration, and sheer determination to
find peace of mind in a new country.
I originally had mixed
feelings about the story, as I've seen a number of movies that
explore the life of someone on the grind in a big city.
There are two things that make Entre Nos stand out, however.
The first is that we're given a strong and determined mother
as the lead character. The second is that we're treated
to a terrific performance by heavily underrated actress Paola
Mendoza, herself a
Colombiana, first caught my attention back in 2004 with her
performance as a strung-out mother in the film On the Outs.
A few years later, she impressed me again with her role in
Sangre de Mi Sangre. Mendoza brings a sense of
realness to her roles, and with a glance can communicate
genuine emotional suffering. The film had an even more profound
impact on me when I later discovered that the character of
Mariana was patterned after Mendoza's own mother, a
The filmmakers also hit a
bullseye in their casting of Sebastian Villada as Mariana's 10
year old son, and Laura Montana as his six year old sister
Andrea. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Sarita
Choudhury of Mississippi Masala fame with a small part in the
movie, as well as Anthony Chisolm, a regular from HBO's Oz
(Burr Redding). The film also succeeds with a stark yet
beautiful guitar soundtrack, complementing the heartfelt
performances of the talented cast.
There's not an awful lot to
the story itself, but what the film lacks in writing, it more
than makes up for with touching performances. While the
film does end on a positive note, it was honestly a little
challenging for me to deal with how sad and depressing
Mariana's situation was. Unlike many movies with
fictional stories of despair, Entre Nos is very moving in that
many of us know someone exactly like Mariana. Possibly a
single mother, perhaps a married immigrant couple trying to
survive, but it hits closer to home when her situation mirrors
that of our own lives, or those of people we've known.
Mendoza could have very
easily written and directed a film that would be commercially
successful. Instead, she created a film that obviously
needed to be made. Paola Mendoza is hands-down the most
underrated Latina in American cinema today, and Entre Nos
marks her best performance. Anyone who supports those who went
through the struggle to get a piece of the American Dream
should absolutely give this film a watch.