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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe TIFF Review: A Standard but Endearing Queer Coming-of-Age Story

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

The young adult novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe has gathered a great deal of acclaim, so it’s shocking that it took this long for a film adaptation to come out. Although the film is pretty standard, it’s charming and wholesome in a way that will allow the LGBTQ+ community to enjoy it.

The film follows two Latin American teenagers living in El Paso as they find an instant connection in a community that all too often looks down on relationships like theirs. It’s a pretty formulaic queer coming-of-age story, the likes of which have become popular in the past decade or so, but it’s still a welcome stride in representation for a historically underrepresented community.

Indeed, the area in which this movie succeeds most is not in depicting these characters as merely queer teenagers, but queer Latin American teenagers. It’s a community in which so many of these stories occur because of the largely conservative nature of many Latin American families, and seeing these struggles represented in a way that is emotionally authentic is quite welcome.

Granted, as is the case with pretty much any young adult film, there are some scenes that feel a bit on the saccharine side. The whole middle portion of the movie, following the two eponymous characters as they communicate via letter when they are in different cities, stands out as one of the more contrived portions.

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Both of the young lead actors are fantastic despite the fact that this is both of their first performances in a feature film. Their chemistry together is fantastic, and exactly what is needed for this movie to work. You can feel the tension between them bubbling throughout the film in a way that is absolutely adorable.

The film also managed to assemble a pretty impressive supporting cast. Considering the budget of the movie, none of their roles are able to be particularly large, but they make the most of what they have. Eugenio Derbez and Eva Longoria play parents of the teens, and they each get one really big “supporting actor” scene that is really impressive.

The independent nature of the film does hold it back a bit in terms of visuals. A few moments employ CGI to create a dreamlike feel to it, and it’s admittedly a bit distractingly unpolished. However, for the most part, it’s a pretty standard coming-of-age movie set in the ‘80s, complete with a soundtrack of well-known tunes and campy costumes.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s still all-around solid, making it a worthwhile addition to the genre. It’s mainstream and agreeable enough that it will probably be a moderate hit with audiences.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe screened at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, which runs September 8-18.

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