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John Leguizamo plays Frank Diaz, a down-on-his-luck stepfather of two children, who’s already catching a tough time, but then he and his family are evicted from their home, only to be forced into New York City’s shelters on Christmas Eve.
John is a boxer who can’t catch a break with an anticipated fight, but when the housing authority matches he, his wife, Angela, and stepchildren, 10-year-old Justin and Christina, with their own apartment, excitement builds—until John finds out that he has to have a job, on the books, before he can take possession of the apartment.
Can he and his family remain tough and unite to grab what appears to be a miracle out of the sky?
The title is derived from a moment in the movie, when the housing authority official asks John if the new apartment is acceptable, and he responds, “Well, it’s not where God left his shoes, but it’s OK.”
The movie is filled with raw tenacity and great promise, especially between John and Justin, whom he forces to go out into the streets with whim as he literally begs for a job from folks with whom he’s had prior connections. He and the boy cover the cold, wicked city, running the gamut—from begging on the street, stealing clothes for an interview from a department store and jumping over the turnstiles in the subway in order to ride the train.
The boy has his own smart mouth, but he and his dad have an understanding, even though Justin doesn’t feel loved in the same manner as he’s seen the father show love to his younger sister.
John assures the young man that he loves him, telling him it’s not “manly” to share these feelings. Eventually John and Justin agree on a gesture that they’d share to let the young boy know that he’s being loved.
Where God Left His Shoes examines the “system” as it pertains to seeking the comfort of shelter living, with all the rules and regulations, as well as looks at issues that are prevalent in today’s society—that of surviving in the midst of the economic meltdown, whether it’s Christmas Eve or mid-August.
Where God Left His Shoes is presented by IFC Entertainment, as part of its IFC in Theaters program that allows moviegoers in New York and Los Angeles to see the film in movie houses, while Cable television viewers can access the film at home via IFC Demand through March 12, 2009.
The film earned the 2007 Humanitas Prize, Best Sundance Feature Film and rave reviews for its endearing story: “John Leguizamo gives his truest performance on film as a failed boxer in Salvatore Stabile’s emotional roller-coaster Where God Left His Shoes. Axed from the card of an upcoming bout, he loses his apartment and goes with his wife (Leonor Varela) and two children (David Castro, Samantha Rose) into a homeless shelter. The acting, the on-the-fly atmosphere (the film was shot quickly), and Leguizamo’s increasingly urgent hustle are deeply evocative, but parts of the movie are almost too painful to endure,” says David Edelstein of New York Magazine.
I agree; the movie is almost too painful to watch, but all the way through it, you’re rooting for the Diaz family to overcome its obstacles and prevail in the end.
Elaine Hegwood Bowen Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago.
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