This was the follow up to Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck's surprise hit Half Nelson, and, like that one, this is a smart, heartfelt tale that has a great message, but is still entertaining without being overly preachy.
The story concerns 19 year-old Miguel "Sugar" Santos, a talented pitcher from the Dominican Republic who dreams of getting sent to the U.S. to make it big in the major leagues. Before he can get that far though, he has to start lower, and his big dreams start off with him being sent through the ranks of the minor leagues, where he ends up in a small Iowa town. His experiecnes there, mostly involving his struggles with a foreign language and culture cause him to start reevaluating his life's ambition and make him question if he's really on the right path in life.
This is a sports movie, but not in the typical sense. It's mostly a character study about the immigrant experience in the U.S., with a nice examination specifically of Latin American and Caribbean athletes and how they fit into the big picture. I originally thought this was a documentary, or perhaps a docudrama, but no, the specific story is entirely fictional, though it is heavily influenced by real life stories
That I thought this was non-fiction is a testament to Boden and Fleck's knowledge of the subject, and the high leve lof authenticity and honesty on display in the film. They did their homework, and realy know their stuff, and the result is a wonderful look at both the immigrant experience, and the world of immigrants in the minor leagues.
If I have to air complaints, then I'll point out that the film's overall pacing could have been perhaps a bit tighter, and how the third act overall seems to lose a lot of momentum I thought. It doesn't derail completely, but it does start to drag. Also, the way the flm was done just seemed really "typical" to me. There's no denying this is an indie film, and it seems like the film wants that fact to be known. Kidna got to me a bit, especially since Boden and Fleck's other two major films are like that as well (to varying degrees).
All in all though, this is a really decent film. It's got some good performances, a great message, and is an insightful look into a neat subject.