Ivan Grbovic, Canada 2021
Willy (Jorge Antonio Guerrero) is desperately searching for his long-lost love Marlena (Yoshira Escárrega). He joins a group of seasonal workers from his homeland of Mexico on a farm way up north in rural Quebec. He believes that Mar, the wife of a drug cartel boss back home, has fled to nearby Montreal.
And he doesn’t give up on trying to find her. On his days off from picking nothing but huge heads of lettuce on the farm, he searches for her by surfing the internet and cold-calling potential leads while his peers call their families, girlfriends, and sex hotlines back home. But soon Willy gets caught up in the unhappy lives of the family that owns the farm. And in trying to show an act of kindness, he risks his chances of reuniting with his own true love.
Ivan Grbovic’s romantic drama is beautiful. The pre-dawn scenes of the farm landscape, which the camera keeps returning to, are eerily breathtaking. But the film is also a stark social commentary on global labor migration. In so many ways, these migrant workers are reminded constantly of who is in charge – as is the farmer’s teenaged daughter when she gets mixed up in a very different form of global labor exploitation. I won’t spoil the subplot, but she mixes Willy up in its aftermath, too.
I loved every minute of this film, from its opening scene with one of my favorite quotes from John Steinbeck (“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone”), right on through to the final minute, where we see (or at least hope we see) Willy finding his way home. The narrative is paced well, each scene adds another piece to the puzzle of the migrant’s life, and the viewer is left to interpret how the main character’s story really ends.