Life isn’t a cakewalk if you’re a working-class immigrant living hand to mouth in New York. It’s really, really hard to get by if, like Mariana (Mendoza), your husband suddenly announces that he’s going alone to Miami for a job. And it’s damned near impossible if, say, you and your two kids must fend for yourselves without a dime. Everything will quickly go to hell in a handbasket (getting evicted), and then it’ll get even worse (living on the street, those mysterious bouts of morning puking). Audiences, you may begin sniffling now.
No one would question the bona fides of this autobiographical story, in which cowriter, codirector and actor Paola Mendoza cathartically mines her rough childhood for raw material (the matriarch is based on her own single mother). But while you can’t fault this labor of love’s conception, you can take issue with its leaden execution: Every horrific turn of events is treated with oh-the-humanity heavy-handedness and overly sorrowful guitar strumming; and the film says little about larger social ills, beyond noting that being homeless with children is tough. Only a hardened heart couldn’t be moved by the site of such familial struggling, yet only those who equate manipulative miserablism with automatic greatness won’t feel they’ve been gracelessly jerked around.—David Fear