Sugar

Critics Consensus

Sugar is an exceptionally-crafted film -- part sports flick, part immigrant tale -- with touching and poignant drama highlighted by splendid performances.

92%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 135

80%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 12,637
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Movie Info

Filmmakers Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (Half Nelson) weave this introspective sports drama concerning a talented Dominican baseball player who longs to break into the American big league and earn the money needed to support his impoverished family. Miguel Santos is a talented pitcher who might just have what it takes to earn a prized spot on a Major League Baseball team, but before that happens he'll have to prove his worth in the minor leagues. Advancing into the United States' minor league system at the tender age of 19, Miguel is warmly welcomed into the small-town Iowa home of his host family, but can't help but struggle with language and cultural barriers despite the kindness of strangers. Subsequently forced to reevaluate his life's ambition after his once-trusty arm becomes unreliable, the previously single-minded pitcher gradually begins to question both the world he lives in and the role he has chosen to play in it.

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Critic Reviews for Sugar

All Critics (135) | Top Critics (42) | Fresh (124) | Rotten (11)

  • Sugar, a baseball movie, an immigrant parable and a thoroughly entertaining drama that accomplishes the seemingly impossible task of putting a fresh face on the fractured American Dream.

    Mar 20, 2013 | Full Review…

    John Anderson

    Newsday
    Top Critic
  • Not only have director-writers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck crafted a poignant immigrant tale, they've made a sports saga rife with rare truths.

    Mar 20, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4
  • The camera is on Sugar the whole time, but the faux-documentary approach keeps him out of reach in all the ways that really matter.

    Mar 20, 2013 | Full Review…
  • To tell you what happens to him from here would be a tremendous disservice. We'll just say that, refreshingly, nothing about it is sickly sweet.

    Mar 20, 2013
  • A rich and moving reminder of the way professional sports aspirations can shape someone's destiny in the real world.

    Mar 20, 2013 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • This is a tragic sports movie that shies away from every element of tragedy.

    Mar 20, 2013

    David Denby

    New Yorker
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Sugar

  • Mar 10, 2011
    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.
    Chris W Super Reviewer
  • Apr 10, 2010
    Sugar is an ode to the immigrant story, and completely not what you'd expect from all the fastballs and sinkers hurled so early in the film. Every scene feels rich and yet edited smartly, efficiently moving from one scene to the next with only what you need. And that is essentially what Miguel Santos, aka "Azúcar" ("Sugar") does in this movie. No-namer Algenis Perez Soto plays Sugar, a 19-yr. old Dominican pitching prospect basically working on a baseball farm in his native land and awaiting his chance to get sent Stateside. Family and friends in his lively yet clearly destitute community constantly inquire, "Are you going to the States yet?" which, at this point in the movie, is insinuated to mean catching his big break in baseball. But what we learn throughout the movie's journey is that the big break was really just as simple as the question: going to the States. The movie hooks the viewer with a common sports movie, rags-to-riches trajectory: Sugar gets called up to the U.S. for spring training in Arizona, impresses several scouts, and is assigned to Single A baseball in... Iowa. His paychecks, even as a minor-leaguer, still excite him, as he sends so much of it to his family in the Dominican Republic. His pitching debut on the field draws great applause from the local Iowan crowd and praise from onlooking analysts. But gradually, Sugar's cultural dislocation distresses him. He knows a pocketful of English words, keeping him always at pitching arm's length from nearly everybody in this new, Midwestern small-town community he's summering in, even though there are moments where it looks like he's making connections. Then the sports movie expectations come off the rails. Sugar is sidelined with an injury, his lone Spanish-speaking friend in Iowa, Jorge, is cut from the team, and a new pitching phenom is added, finding himself under mounting pressure to perform well on the mound, with so much at stake - such as supporting his family back home. And quite naturally, he begins to unravel. His on-field issues exacerbate his struggles to meld with the small-town culture, leaving him vulnerable and doubting his baseball ambitions. He then makes a surprising decision that underscores the film's quiet tragedy in unrealized dreams, and yet emboldens the viewer in maybe discovering a different kind of dream that America surely offers. And it's all played so matter-of-factly, with no grandstanding, embellished drama, or "actor's scenes" - all a very realist-style story arc. As you see Sugar settle into a new community with familiar languages and even finding old pal Jorge, you can't help but recall when Sugar, drinking beers with his buddies back in the Dominican before leaving for spring training, and one of them shares his story about once having thrown a 98-mph fastball in the minor leagues. And yet there he was, just a regular guy on an island in the Caribbean, living like he was before he left. Knowing that there are many versions of his story, and that there are versions of Sugar's story, is how the film quietly blows you away.
    Neum D Super Reviewer
  • Feb 24, 2010
    This is not a sports film at all; Baseball is only the setting for a story of human experience. Sugar is a wonderfully crafted movie, a story of opportunity and adaptation made more effective through the perspective of an immigrant chasing his "one opportunity" for success. The journey is fascinating, the progress from a baseball academy in the D.R. to living with an Iowa family and finally living in New York surronded by others who had made the journey before. Sugar is a uniquely American story told in a refreshingly honest way.
    Clintus M Super Reviewer
  • Dec 19, 2009
    Interesting, but it does bog down in the middle. I think Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck do a good job with what they have, but the subject doesn't lend itself to all those exciting long shots and sequences they so adore.
    matt s Super Reviewer

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