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The ViewAuckland Review

Review byMatthew Turner23/10/2008

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 114 mins

Brilliantly directed, superbly written and thoroughly engaging drama that skilfully blends sports movies, immigration dramas and coming of age movies, while avoiding the usual cliches.

What's it all about?
Directing team Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck's follow-up to Half Nelson stars newcomer Algenis Perez Soto as Miguel 'Sugar' Santos, a 19-year-old pitcher from the Dominican Republic who's been training at a nearby baseball academy since he was 16. When he's selected to play in the US Minor Leagues, Sugar moves to America and undergoes spring training in Arizona before joining a Single-A team in Iowa, where he's billeted with a baseball-loving host family (Ann Whitney and Richard Bull) in their farmhouse.

As Sugar struggles with the cultural and language barriers, he's helped by his friend Jorge (Rayniel Rufino), the only other Dominican on the team and a young American player (Andre Holland). Meanwhile, the pressure builds when his pitching starts to falter and he also has to deal with the fact that the host family's Bible-bashing granddaughter Anne (Ellary Porterfield) has a crush on him.

The Good
Fleck and Boden's brilliant script skilfully blends sports movies, immigration dramas and coming-of-age movies, while resolutely avoiding the usual cliches – for example, there's no climactic Big Game, no showdown with Evil Racists and no one gets killed in a fight. Instead, the film is comprised of realistic scenes that give the film a documentary-like feel.

Perez Soto is astonishing as Sugar – he has very little dialogue, but his face and eyes speak volumes, to enormously engaging effect. There's also strong support from Michael Gaston as Sugar's tough-but-fair coach and Porterfield, Whitney and Bull are all wonderful as 'Los Higgins'.

The Great
In addition, the film is beautifully shot with sumptuous cinematography by Andrij Parekh. It's also packed with wonderful scenes, such as the non-English-speaking players attempting to order breakfast ("French toast") and manages to be deeply moving by the simple expedient of having characters be nice to each other.

Worth seeing?
Sugar is a brilliantly directed, well written and beautifully acted drama that is both warm-hearted and genuinely moving. Unmissable.

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Content updated: 25/02/2020 09:15

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