There are stories that depict how resilient family bonds are in times of duress, and those that reject such rosy ideals to show how tenuous even blood relationships can be, but first-timer Chris Eska's Spanish-language drama (and Spirit Award winner for Best Feature Under $500,000) quietly and bittersweetly validates both notions. In the rural southern Texas of some long-lost Terrence Malick film (where it's always magic hour!), graying paterfamilias and illegal farm worker Jaime (Pedro Castaneda) loses his wife, then his job, provoking him to hop a bus with his widowed daughter-in-law Lupe (Veronica Loren) to see his surviving kids in San Antonio. Passed off between the proud, working-class son who never told him about his grandchild and the annoyed, suburban daughter who hooked up with a white man, Jaime's only security is Lupe, a guarded introvert who feels overly pressured to remarry by a family she's not even related to. Perhaps Eska didn't have to write all of his characters into overlapping crossroads of crisis, but he's more nuanced than overt, and his cast (especially Loren and the nonprofessional Castaneda) sells it. We see exactly how the older and younger generations let each other down as their time together ticks slowly away—and boy, does it ever: Eska's visual digressions are lyrical in the moment (think early David Gordon Green), but ultimately indulgent at over two hours.
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