Sundance 2009-Don't Let Me Drown

Don't Let Me Drown

From first time director Cruz Angeles, Don’t Let Me Drown is a beautifully constructed love story about two Latino teenagers living in New York City shortly after the attacks of 9/11. With grit and an unmistakable authenticity, it takes an intimate look at the struggles of two ethnically different families fighting to survive in the wake of one of the most devastating tragedies in American history. Lalo (E.J. Bonilla) is an American-born Mexican teen whose father worked as a janitor in the towers and now spends his days blackening his lungs as part of the Ground Zero clean up crew. Stephanie (Gleendilys Inoa) is a third generation Dominican girl whose family has relocated from Manhattan to Brooklyn after the death of her sister, who worked in one of the twin towers. Together they try to find stability and safety in an ever-changing and unrelentingly difficult world.

It combines a love story akin to Romeo and Juliet with a street-level authenticity of Boyz in the Hood, this film is an immensely impressive first outing for director Angeles. He aptly recreates the textures of a city and the turmoil felt by so many families in the five Burroughs at that particular time. He has also co-written with Maria Topete a very honest and sweet love story the pierces through the sometimes terrifying realism of the streets. Not to mention the fact that he’s put together a cast of young actors who deliver splendid performances, all brimming with confidence and charisma. He only runs into problems when it comes to pacing. The film takes a while to really get going, but once it does get up to speed it really shines. It shines bright like any fresh new American love story should, showing the gritty reality that exists for so many kids in our country but also reminding us of the healing power that can be found in love.

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