Making her narrative debut, Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Heidi Ewing (Jesus Camp NZIFF 2006) fictionalises the real-life story of an aspiring chef, Iván (Armando Espitia) and a teacher, Gerardo (Christian Vázquez), whose chance encounter sparks a love affair spanning decades. Iván has a child with a previous partner who he struggles to support financially, while Gerardo has a tense relationship with his traditional family of ranchers; both conceal their sexuality to varying degrees from the homophobia of 1990s Mexico. Their unstoppable attraction is complicated by the lure of a better life in America, prompting Iván to make a perilous journey across the border to the US.
Elements of Ewing’s documentary foundations are evident — her narrative unfolds with a lived-in intimacy, as interested in grandiose emotions as it is on interiors, shared meals and idle conversation – but her knack for immersing viewers in Iván and Gerardo’s swirling love affair through fluid camerawork and natural dialogue reveals a sharp instinct for dramatic storytelling. Tender and dreamlike, I Carry You with Me deftly explores complex issues of immigration and family separation through one absorbing love story, and is crystallised by a third-act twist that will leave viewers breathless.
Rendered in a beautifully warm softness by cinematographer Juan Pablo Ramírez, Ewing’s narrative pays as much attention to what we gain from leaps of faith as what we leave behind. Bolstered by powerfully emotive performances from Espitia and Vázquez, I Carry You with Me won both the NEXT Innovator and Audience Awards following its 2020 premiere at Sundance. — George Fenwick