Cuba-shot and Spike Lee–presented, this modest indie is authentic to its time and place: post-Fidel Havana, a gray-skied tropical dump cluttered with hookers, aimless youth and stray dogs. There’s potential in the simple story: Restless post-teens Raul (Dariel Arrechaga) and Elio (Javier Núñez Florián), having become fed up with oppression and poverty, decide to gather the goods necessary for the illegal crossing to Florida. But the film suffers from too many earnest amateur-night decisions: sodden YA dialogue, redundant exposition, prevalent yet dipensible narration by one boy’s insecure but hot twin sister (De la Rúa de la Torre), flat staging, try-anything camerawork and haphazard storytelling (a trannie, a Santeria witch and a white tourist family are thrown in, because why not?).
Documentarian Anailín Lucy Mulloy’s eye for the decaying textures of modern Cuba on the ground is sharp, and there are passages—as the dull characters mope and kill time and work up snits—in which you wish the movie were simply nonfiction. As it is, everything feels fake except the Centro Habana barrios themselves.