Rarely does a film come along that feels as genuine and deeply grounded as I Carry You With Me. A perfectly assembled blend of emotions that is both inspiring, and heartbreaking at the same time. “I had that dream again. I have it all the time.” These are the first lines of the film, spoken through voice over by an older Iván Garcia in present day New York. It’s a fitting opening that sets the tone for the remainder of the film. Dreams, and what it costs to achieve them, are at the heart of this story.
I Carry You With Me follows the relationship between Iván Garcia and Gerardo Zabaleta, a real life romance that began in Mexico when the two locked eyes across the room of a crowded gay bar. The spark was immediate. From there we see the two struggle to maintain their relationship while navigating the hurdles of life and the social pressures that fight to keep them apart. Gerardo, who works as a teacher’s assistant, is “out” and as a result he faces prejudices regularly. Iván, an aspiring chef, does his best to hide his sexuality, bragging that he’s known how to pass as a straight man his entire life. He has a young son and the fear of losing his only child is the primary driving force for Iván keeping his sexuality hidden.
Director Heidi Ewing (Jesus Camp) is an accomplished documentary filmmaker making her narrative film debut. Her documentary roots are clearly visible here, primarily with the movements and placements of the camera. The majority of the shots are handheld, and the camera often follows behind the leads as they move from one location to another, effectively allowing audiences to experience the world as Iván and Gerardo do.
The story unfolds as various moments in time blended together, jumping from past to present and further into the past again. The present day moments feature the real life Iván Garcia and Gerardo Zabaleta as themselves, filmed in documentary style as Heidi Ewing is likely accustomed. The bulk of the story takes place in Mexico in the 90’s with Armando Espitia and Christian Vázquez portraying the dramatized versions of Iván and Gerardo. Armando and Christian are perfectly cast, bringing a vulnerability and level of realism to the roles that was necessary to properly tell the story. However, its the few short moments that explore Iván and Gerardo’s experiences as young children that are perhaps the most telling and heartbreaking moments of the film.
It’s a testament to the talents of cinematographer Juan Pablo Ramirez that each shot effectively conveys a different tone or emotion. In the film’s opening moments the camera moves slowly through an open field of tall grass and wild flowers at dusk. It’s beautiful, yet the muted color tones and shaky camera movements force a feeling of sorrow, of loneliness. In the next shot the camera has pulled back to reveal Iván wondering aimlessly in the open and vacant field. The film begins by putting viewers in Iván’s point of view at a moment when he is at his most lost. We experience the journey with him. Through the highs and lows, successes and failures, love and loss.
The finished product is a deeply personal and beautiful achievement that explorers the hurdles and struggles of living life from a point of view that many have not experienced. 9/10