There’s a lesson at the heart of Simon Brand’s drama: Sometimes the grass is greener back home. Marlon (Correa), a teen from a middle-class upbringing in Medelln, Colombia, comes to that epiphany when he arrives at a motel apparently stuck in sketchy, crack-epidemic-era New York. He’d made the dangerous trek up north after being enticed by promises of a first-world paradise and nonstop sex with his girlfriend, Reina (Blandon). Instead, he finds himself penniless and alone, navigating the cold, foreign city. The only indication of an Eden is written on a dilapidated billboard overlooking Manhattan; it advertises PARADISE RUM.
Paraiso Travel traces the route familiar to many undocumented Latino immigrants on their way to the States; it also retreads the common themes featured in movies about their experiences. To its detriment, the film veers into telenovela territory by trafficking in melodrama (fittingly, both lead actors started out in the soaps) and in the outlandish (at one point, Marlon lives with a stuttering S&M aficionado in a condemned apartment building). This Colombian export will undoubtedly resonate for some audience members on both sides of the border, but New Yorkers—who, contrary to Marlon’s experience, know it’s not hard to find someone who speaks Spanish (!)—may leave the film sore from flexing the suspended-disbelief muscle.—Monika Fabian