Film Review: Entre Nos

This film may seem little on the outside, but it contains powerful humanity and deep empathy.

In its modest way, Gloria LaMorte and Paola Mendoza's Entre Nos evokes the honesty and humanity of neo-realist Italian cinema, a school more filmmakers should look to these days, when modern life's often bitter reality is too rarely reflected in the plethora of fantastical escapism and "ironically" dumb farces which dominate movie screens.

Entre Nos tells a simple tale of Mariana (Mendoza), a Colombian mother deserted by her a-hole husband in New York, who must somehow eke out a living for herself and two small children, Gabriel (Sebastian Villada) and Andrea (Laura Montana). She becomes one of the city's army of disenfranchised, making a park bench home on the nights when she cannot afford a fleabag room for shelter. With $50 left to her name, she tries to sell her homemade empanadas on the street with little success. She collects bottles and cans for the change they bring in and, after this, you may never look the same way at people you see doing this on a daily basis. Without ever getting too soapbox-y, the film is an indictment of this incredibly wealthy country's indifference to the less fortunate. Bradford Young's cinematography, for all the grim subject matter, is surprisingly cheery, presenting a sunny urban environment in which the hint of hope seems to still somehow lurk around the corner.

The performances are uniformly quite wonderful. Mendoza totally avoids bathos, presenting a straightforward portrait of a woman merely doing what she has to and who takes "Never complain, never explain" as her indefatigable motto. Her children are enacted by two little performers who are miracles of naturalism, remindful of that magical pair of kids in Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter, who, with salubrious innocence, can maintain a brave face even when confronted by dire situations. Isabel Sung is also adorably real as a little Korean girl who befriends Gabriel (and gets him into a heap of trouble).