Long Gone By, co-written and directed by Andrew Morgan, is the latest of many films to come out this year tackling the immigration crisis that is so prevalent in America today. However, it offers one of the more unique approaches to the topic, and as such, ends up being thoroughly harrowing and heartbreaking.
The movie follows a Nicaraguan immigrant who is a single mother living in Indiana with her teenage daughter. When she learns that she is going to be deported, she is driven to desperate measures to raise the money her daughter will need to attend college. What starts out as a character-driven drama soon turns into an exhilarating and pulse-pounding thriller, yet the whole time, you will be on the edge of your seat waiting to see what will come next.
If it isn’t obvious, this film is highly political in nature, but it is extremely effective in conveying its message without feeling over-the-top. Yes, the message is direct and straightforward, but it is delivered in a way that doesn’t feel heavy-handed. The audience should (and likely will) come to their own conclusion about the immigration crisis as a result of seeing these events unfold in their own horrifying way.
Part of the reason that the movie works so well is that the characters are written phenomenally. The protagonist, Ana, is thoroughly compelling. Although it will be hard for most audiences to imagine, much less feel what Ana is going through, we will all realize the weight of her actions and as such, some of the things she does that may not normally be justifiable end up being very sympathetic.
Erica Muñoz gives a wonderful performance in her lead role, packing the character with as much emotion as she possibly can. Something like this very easily could have been over-the-top, but Muñoz’s performance helps the film stay grounded and realistic. If there is one weak link in the movie, it is Izzy Hau’ula, whose deliver as the protagonist’s daughter doesn’t always land, but even she has her share of great moments.
Never does the film feel like it is pulling unnecessary heartstrings or manipulating your emotions to promote its agenda. Every emotional reaction which this movie will get from the audience is earned, either from a precisely-crafted scenario or an effective bit of character development. Although those who are anti-immigration will likely remain unconvinced, those who are on the line may see the heft of this film and take a more firm stance.
On a technical level, the movie is mostly simple and straightforward given its independent nature, but everything is done in a way that looks and sounds entirely professional. From the cinematography to the sparing use of music, nothing sounds cheap. In fact, everything seems designed to create the maximum possible amount of suspense which, in turn, will have a greater emotional impact.
A surprising and refreshing thriller with an important message, Long Gone By is a film that you need to keep on your radar. Although its lack of big-name stars may keep it from breaking out into the mainstream, this seems destined to be an indie darling.
Long Gone By debuts at the HBO New York Latino Film Festival on August 17.