We are all used to the predictable, formulaic, sports film: local boy/underdog team makes good/wins cup. This film, set in the world of American baseball (but it could be any major sport), not only avoids the usual clichés, it actively subverts them. Instead, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have made a tender and thoughtful film about colour, class, culture, exploitation, the immigrant experience and what is actually important in life.
Algenis Perez Soto gives an impressive performance as Miguel Santos (nicknamed “Sugar” because of his sweet personality), a teenage baseball star in his native Dominican Republic. He is spotted by an American talent scout and joins a training programme. Sugar’s father is dead and so he is the head of his family, helping to provide for his mother, grandmother and younger siblings. He is only too aware of the difference that the financial rewards of a successful sporting career would make to his family. We follow him to America and into the Minor League in Iowa, where he lodges with a local family. The story concentrates on the culture clash – Sugar is far from home in more ways than just miles – as he struggles with the language, injury and a growing sense of isolation as he has to decide what kind of life he really wants and how he can reconcile this to his family responsibilities.
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck also wrote the screenplays for Half Nelson (2006, directed by Ryan Fleck) and for the short film, Have you seen this Man? (2003), both of which won various awards. Sugar is the third film they have directed together and if they keep up the quality of their film-making, their future career should be worth following.
Cast – Algenis Perez Soto, Andre Holland, Ann Whitney, Ellany Porterfield, Jaime Tirelli, Michael Gaston, Rayniel Rufino
Anna Boden | USA | 2008 | 114 minutes | 15
Weighted vote 80%