Alejandro (Jaime Camil) is a mariachi performer and (since the death of his wife) has become a stay-at-home dad. His unconventional lifestyle and career poses problems when trying to obtain a visa for his daughter, Maria, who has recently been distracted and gotten into trouble at school. The two have a strong relationship; Maria can tell when her dad is upset and knows how to cheer him up, and Alejandro wants nothing more than to provide a better life for his daughter. Owing money to an intimidating gangster, he begins to worry if Mexico is safe, let alone worth enough, for his daughter to remain there. He’s motivated to make change, but he’s also very clever, and to an extent, his cleverness helps and hurts.
The woman who rejected Alejandro’s application for a visa, Rachel (Laura Ramsey), is being transferred to London. Her co-workers throw her a surprise goodbye party, and Alejandro’s mariachi band provides the music. After a few too many drinks, Rachel has to be helped home. A hazy night turns into a rough morning, and when she wakes up on Alejandro’s couch, Rachel can’t find her computer, which is filled with top secret documents and sensitive information. Alejandro offers to help her find it, seeing it as an opportunity to prove to her that he is worthy of a visa.
A crazy adventure ensues, some of it planned and some of it unexpected. True friends are exposed, as well as lies, and everyone involved is somehow changed at the end of the day. The film is in English and Spanish includes a few (but not too many) beautiful Spanish songs. It could almost be considered a musical.
The characters are interesting too; from the gangster whom Alejandro owes money to his goofy best friend, Canicas, even the flatter characters have enough personality to remain memorable. Rachel’s mother has an understated and interesting character. She’s a realist almost to the point of being cynical. She isn’t in love with her daughters passion for travel and self-proclaimed “gypsy lifestyle,” but her love and desire to be helpful shines through.
Pulling Strings is strong because it includes a few well-placed twists and turns where the film could easily become cliche. It is entertaining and romantic, but manages not to become too cheesy, and it includes simple but aesthetically-pleasing cinematography. The musical performances give it a bit of an edge, and its feel-good quality is sure to leave a good impression on viewers.
Available on DVD from Lionsgate on February 25.