Grandsons Diego, Rodrigo and Bruno face the daunting task of caring for their 93-year old Oma. But, they dearly love their old lady and band together to take care of “America.”
We meet America and her loving grandsons after she had a fall where her caretaker son, Luis, was accused, and jailed, for abandoning her. Diego and Rodrigo fill in for their missing dad and lovingly take care of her and her demands and complaints. Bruno, after finishing his job at the circus, joins his brothers and the three must care for Oma and work to get their dad out of jail.
This multi-generational tale could have been a straightforward story of a family caring for an elderly loved one and its trials and tribulations. But, the brothers are also professional acrobats and clowns and they use their entertaining skills to humor and cajole their very aged grandma to help them help her.
“America” will have particular meaning to anyone who has had and loved an elderly grandparent – my own Nana was with us until she was 99½ and I miss her still. I give it a B.
Diego is a surf shop clerk and street performer in Mexico’s tourist town of Puerto Vallarta, jumping rope on a unicycle or imitating Elvis on stilts, but when his 93 year-old grandmother falls out of bed and injures herself and her sole care-giver, his father Luis, is jailed for neglect, he must return to his home town of Colima. There he will reunite with estranged brothers Rodrigo and Bruno to ensure the well-being of “América.”
This is the first documentary that made me ponder the question 'Can a documentary have a production designer?' because the film's overall color scheme seems so beautifully coordinated. There is a lot more going on here, of course, than lovely pastel visuals (cinematography by “American Factory’s” Erick Stoll, who also produced, directed and edited with Chase Whiteside), the film a family drama of three brothers with distinctly different approaches and attitudes towards familial elder care.
Diego, the youngest of the three, literally welcomes América into a new day, drawing her into wakefulness, feeding her, getting her exercise and bathing her. In a stunning widescreen over-the-shoulder shot, eldest brother Rodrigo’s girlfriend Cristina talks about giving back to life what life gives to you as we watch a gamut of emotions – shock, fear, wonderment and affection – wash over América’s face. The grandmother worries in the home’s courtyard as Diego performs acrobatic stunts from a tree, affectionately chiding her that he knows what he is doing. The depth of her care is noted in long shot, Diego and Bruno assisting her at an outdoor toilet, washing her down afterwards.
But left to his own devices, Bruno’s tough love stance in insisting América walk without assistance draws the attention of a passing police car. A discussion between Diego and Rodrigo makes it quite clear that the elder brother views his grandmother more as a burden than beloved family member, resenting Diego’s financial burden as a full time caregiver. And when the brothers achieve their objective of getting Luis released from prison, things do not play out as they’d expected.
With their first film, Stoll and Whiteside have made a beautiful portrait of familial love nestled within an eldercare drama. You won’t soon forget Diego and América.
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