Heading into Inside Out 2021, I had my eyes set on one film in particular that I’ve been anticipating since word of mouth at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. That film being Heidi Ewing’s first narrative feature I Carry You With Me. Being described as an epic love story that spans over multiple decades, the film follows Iván (Armando Espitia), an aspiring chef in Mexico with a young son he rarely gets to see but tries his best to support with any given chance. Keeping his sexuality a secret from the mother of his son as well as his own family to keep contact with his child, Iván heads out to an underground gay bar with his childhood friend and biggest supporter Sandra (Michelle Rodríguez) where he meets the confident and charming Gerardo (Christian Vazquez). Hitting it off from the very first second they meet, Iván and Gerardo’s love story is kicked into motion and while it’s quite the rollercoaster being equal parts joyous and stressful, every second is worth the watch.
This is one of those films that is best viewed with as little information as possible due to its impeccable storytelling and a huge tonal shift in its final act. While there are so many aspects of this film to praise, I have to start with the script because this was so incredibly written by Alan Page and Heidi Ewing. The dialogue is natural and hard-hitting, every scene compliments the next and the characters are treated with care and passion. As for the timelines present in the story, they’re strategically intertwined throughout its runtime so that there’s no confusion as to when, where and what is taking place. I find when films mix in more than a few timelines it becomes easy to get lost as it unravels but every piece of this story fell into place perfectly as it went along.
As for the casting, this was near perfect. With it being a true story and introducing us to the real Iván, Gerardo and Sandra, it was essential to cast actors to do justice to these incredible people and they truly exceeded in every sense; especially with Armando Espitia as Iván. From the moment we’re introduced to Espitia’s portrayal of our lead, you instantly fall in love. Everything about his performance is powerful even in the film’s quietest moments. You feel his joy, heartbreak, stress and his love every second of screen time; he truly turned in what I feel is not only one of the best performances of the festival, but this year in general. As for Michelle Rodríguez (Sandra) and Christian Vazquez (Gerardo), they both turn in stellar performances as well and their chemistry with Armando Espitia is nothing short of beautiful.
I Carry You With Me is so many things and a love story in many different aspects. It shows the love of a father and his son, the importance of platonic love between your friends, the power of loving yourself and how you embody your queerness, and ultimately the love between two men who want nothing more than to be accepted and happy by those around them. While many different forms of love are present, this is also the tale of immigration and how terrifying it is and was. Iván leaves for New York in hopes of building a better life for his lover and son, but the image he had for himself after crossing the border isn’t his reality. The hate shown towards immigrants today is still disturbing and grim and the lack of empathy with so many people in our world is so damn baffling to me.
I know for a fact this film will stay with me for a very long time. It’s a story that not only broke my heart on multiple occasions but also brought so much joy to me as I watched. There are still so many incredible queer stories to tell and bring attention to and for Iván and Gerardo’s story to be presented with such care and compassion, makes me feel confident that the future of queer stories is in great hands. I don’t foresee it being too long before I Carry You With Me is released but I know I’ll for sure be checking it out again as soon as possible; and many times after that.