The new film Blast Beat by Erick Castrillon and Esteban Arango is a rare and beautiful piece of art. It needs to be said immediately that there need to be more films like this. It is an honest depiction of the immigrant struggle seen through the eyes of two brothers who have no choice but to follow their parents from Colombia to the United States in search of the “American Dream”. From the writing to the performances and the 90s aesthetic, everything about this film is wonderful.

Authentic Writing And Performances

The film takes place in the late ’90s as Colombian brothers Carly (Mateo Arias) and Mateo (Moises Arias) prepare to move to the United States for their last years of high school. The two brothers are played by actual brothers. Although the brothers on screen are nothing like their real-life counterparts, the performances between the two brothers feel more authentic and real than any other on-screen sibling duo in recent films. Perhaps helped by the fact that they are related. The way their emotion and their stress are captured on film is acting at its best.

Mateo Arias, Wilmer Valderrama, Diane Guerrero, and Moises Arias

Part of what makes it so authentic is the way the film is written, both in English and Spanish. For someone like me, who grew up in a bilingual home, the child of immigrants, it was almost emotional seeing this on screen. Seeing something, even just hearing language, that hits so close to home is moving. The vernacular spoken in this film sounds familiar and comforting. It doesn’t sound polished or rehearsed. It sounds natural and ordinary. The Arias brothers do a beautiful job of going back and forth between English and Spanish.

It was refreshing to see parents Wilmer Valderrama and Diane Guerrero who looked age-appropriate. One of my biggest pet peeves in films is that parents are often made to look too elderly. Realistically speaking, it would be very likely to be married and have children in your early 20s and have almost adult children by the time you are in your late 30s and early 40s. This felt like the family dynamics I have seen in real life, especially in Latino households.

A Different Kind Of Story

In Blast Beat Metalhead Carly has his heart set on attending the Georgia Aerospace Institute and working for NASA. His genius and determination are admirable and inspiring, and so his parents (Diane Guerrero and Wilmer Valderrama) make the decision to escape the political turmoil in Colombia and chase the American Dream by moving to Atlanta. There they will work and sacrifice to help Carly pursue his dreams. What makes Carly’s story special is that he isn’t some idealized hero in this story. He is just a kid trying to chase his dreams. He is a teenager trying to find his way in a new environment, he is a brother and he has friends he misses, tons of flaws and his reality is bittersweet.

Carly (Mateo Arias)

At first, Mateo is very unhappy with the move and doesn’t make things easy on himself. He has no desire to move to the United States and he doesn’t share his brother’s enthusiasm for much of anything. It’s the first time on screen I have seen an honest portrayal of a teenage immigrant who has been removed completely from the world he knows during these formative years. When the reality of their new life sinks in, the family struggles to adapt as their expectations are shattered. When events threaten to derail their future, Carly’s dream becomes his only lifeline. Although Mateo’s story isn’t as inspiring as Carly’s; what’s beautiful, real, and precious about his story is his transformation into a more mature young man and his commitment to his brother and his family.

A Hugely Refreshing Look At Immigrant Life Raises This Up

Mateo (Moises Arias)

It is so refreshing to watch a film about immigrants that deals with the personal toll that leaving your home take on you. That shows you a different side of the “why” people leave their homes, and what it is they leave behind. I don’t think these types of stories are ever portrayed. It’s always stories about gangs, narcos, cartels, or more high-stakes stories. But more often, the immigrant story is more personal and situations more akin to the stories told in this film. I hope to see more storytelling of this caliber.

You can check out Blast Beat in select theaters and on demand May 21.

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