Paul Mezey

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Sugar Review


Very Good
Part of an emerging pack of would-be American neo-realists, Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden find themselves with one of the most intrinsically American emigration stories never told in their sophomore effort Sugar. From his home in San Pedro De Macoris to a competitive single-A baseball affiliate in Bridgetown, Iowa, Miguel Santos (Algenis Perez Soto), also known as Sugar, finds himself part of an all-too-poorly documented class of citizens picked out of small villages throughout the Dominican Republic -- not to mention Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Chile -- who are promised the American Dream in return for bolstering the American pastime.

Initially feeling more like a study in cultural assimilation in the style of compatriot Ramin Bahrani than their hard-nosed drug-drama debut Half Nelson, Sugar ends up being remarkably singular in its focus. In the Dominican ghettos, Sugar is considered a hero when he comes home from the baseball academy where he spends his weeks honing a rocket launcher of a pitching arm. When he is asked to the Bridgetown affiliate, nicknamed The Swing, his only connection to his home is an old friend (Rayniel Rufino) who was pulled out of San Pedro as well but who hasn't been called up thanks to a chronic ailment. Perez Soto, whose angular figure and penetrating gaze make him a hypnotic presence, appears in almost every frame.

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