REVIEW: A MIRACLE IN SPANISH HARLEM

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Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you A Miracle In Spanish Harlem. Do be sure to catch this film; It’s like watching a poem.

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This is not an exclusively Hispanic story – it’s just a story that happens to people who just happen to be Latino. The story is timeless, crossing boundary and culture, its main language LOVE. And that is what translates. It is for this very reason that I could see MIRACLE being adapted for live performance, and being that all the world IS a stage, then you could take this piece anywhere, for anywhom.

Director Derek Partridge seems to have gifted his ensemble with a vision of his own; a pragmatic approach enabling some really real  performances. Five minutes in and already, I’ve identified with TITO. This is a guy whose eyes are as crucial as the script in telling us the story. As Luis Antonio Ramos draws us in with those peepers, so he lets us see his world through them.

This is a world whose genetic make-up began with an extract of Carlos Bermúdez, whose screenplay gave birth to a pretty awesome bunch of people. (I refuse to call them characters when they’re as real as this). It is this writer’s DNA that acts as a catalyst here, setting off a series of events that allow the production team and performers to deeply reach within themselves. And then, they decorate our screen from the inside, painting in wide, free brush-strokes with their own souls. Their palette? STORIES.

We see Tito’s Mom, (Priscilla Lopez) having a rant for his shamelessly blocking the love of God from his girls’ lives. And just how true is this performance? Well – for starters, Ms Lopez would appear to have studied my own (Irish Catholic) parents for inspiration. For the most part, she underplays – thus underpinning the very nature of a parent who thinks they know what’s best for their children. (And they’re usually right, damnit).

Back to those eyes. There’s stories behind them; we know this much already. As Tito’s single-parent status is established pretty early on, so it’s apparent there’s a lost love behind them. And we’re dying to find out more; we eventually do just that, through the heart of Mr Ramos, which he wears on Tito’s face. Ramos pours everything he has into the pressure-cooker of Tito, to be released in drip-feed motion as the vapour is released. The revelations of the depths of his soul are conveyed both with words, and without.

Gradually, we’re GRACED with EVA (Kate del Castillo) as she glides through the store, eventually meeting us face-to-face at the checkout. We immediately warm to her, so it’s unsurprising that Tito feels likewise. From the get-go, Eva’s established as a feisty lass, with just the right amount of charm and a healthy sprinkling of pluck – this is Miss America right here. She recognises a good ‘un, too, as she acclaims Ernie as “something-else” in exactly the right way. (Ernie – sensitively observed and displayed for our viewing pleasure by the super-talented Adrian Martinez – is a man whose presence tells us a lot about the others; this is great use of the sidekick narrative device).

Then there’s the kids -the gorgeous kids. Confidently performed by Fatima Ptacek and Brianna Gonzalez-Bonacci, Amanda and Samantha are two little girls hopeful for their Father’s future. They’re part of him, and they don’t let him forget it.

There’s a bit of ACTION, too, which I won’t spoil for you. The MAIN EVENT is something we as the audience aren’t privy to, but the resultant aftermath is displayed. Whether this was intentional or a result of budgetary constraints, it worked. If it was the latter, then Serendipity was at work.

It’s far from a perfect movie, but if truth be told, the minor flaws kind of added to its charm. I’d liked to have seen more realism –tighter direction might have been the key – when the girls met Daddy after the aforementioned occurrence. Apart from beautiful puppy-sad eyes, there wasn’t much difference between their reaction here and the more everyday scenes.

I could have done without the canine back-story and Eva’s au-pair revelation; we’d already endeared ourselves to her, so this felt like a sell-out. It kind of felt like an addendum, the white lie itself a deliberate flaw-of-sorts sellotaped on to Eva’s character. To have kept her as Miss 90210 would have only added weight to the love story – and would have actually been a nice Cinderella twist – she with the princely wealth and he, scrubbing the floors.

The Miracle itself was a bit of a MacGuffin – I’m talking the actual miracle here, not the miraculous finding yourself/finding love/finding happiness theme. I blame the REST of the movie for being so damned good that it sucked me in and made me want to forget the supernatural edge. It gave me PEOPLE to believe in, so I didn’t need a Power, a Glory, or a Holy Ghost. Is divine (or Tyronian) intervention the reason things turned out for our couple? I’m pretty sure that with the strength of our two lovers, supported by one heck of a loving family, things would’ve worked out anyway for sure.

So is it true what they say? That they don’t make them like that any more?

They just did.

Pass The Tissues rating (out of 5):

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