Don’t Let Me Drown
by Elaine Hegwood Bowen
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Don’t Let Me Drown is the story of two Brooklyn teenagers finding comfort in each other while dealing with the aftermath of the World Trade Center tragedy. Directed by Cruz Angeles and featuring a stellar cast, Don’t Let Me Drown was a Grand Jury Prize nominee at the Sundance Film Festival and has won the Audience Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival, along with the awards for Jury Prize and Best Editing at the Woodstock Film Festival.
Though their families differ in ethnicity, Lalo and Stefanie find joy in all they share in common as life slowly returns to normal in their gritty but tightly knit neighborhood. Over their parents’ objections, their friendship grows as they discover the healing power of love.
Starring Ricardo Chavira (Desperate Housewives), Emmy nominee E.J. Bonilla (Guiding Light, Law and Order) and Gina Torres (Firefly, Angel), the film is a poignant, moving tale of two Latino teens learning that sometimes the only thing that can keep them from drowning is love.
Stefanie is reluctant at first when she meets Lalo, who is her cousin’s friend. She has lost her sister, Crystal, during the tragedy, and she and her entire family are struggling to accept what has happened. Her father, Chavira, is at wits end trying to address his lost feelings, and he resorts to beating on his wife and daughter at one point. Both teens know that what they are doing won’t please their parents, as Lalo’s father is part of the clean up crew at Ground Zero, who is suffering medically from all of the toxins on the workplace. But he trudges on, because he needs to feed his family. And his mom mistakenly thinks Stefanie is Black and is totally against him having a girlfriend, because she’s fearful he’ll get her pregnant.
Lalo’s young uncle ribs him about being gay, until he finds out that Lalo is involved with Stefanie, and then he wrongly tries to school him on the facts of life. The couple takes chances to see each other, until Chavira finds them, beating Lalo and threatening Stefanie.
Don’t Let Me Drown is a sweet movie, as you watch the teenagers at first try to work it out, fall out and then reconsider their situation at the end and decide to trust in each other and try to live life, in the midst of the tragedy. It’s sad to watch because of 9/11 and all the ramifications of the event, i.e., lost lives, stolen dreams, broken families waiting for word of remains, but it was good to see the couple happy and together in the end.
The film is available now on DVD by Image Entertainment. Visit Web site www.image-entertainment.com.
Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago.
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