Carmen Review- Two Distinct Aspects of this Film Didn’t Fit Together Entirely

Sometimes I get excited when I see new actors and actresses that are coming up in Hollywood in a film together. Two actors in this scenario are Melissa Barrera and Paul Mescal. The latter is coming off of an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in After Son. And Barrera has already amassed a handful of great films under her belt. In the Heights, the last two Scream films and All the World is Sleeping. She has a lot of potential going forward. These two have teamed up in their latest film Carmen. 

The movie starts out on a sad note as an old woman is dancing and two men drive up and ask where she is, the she in question is Carmen (Melissa Barrera)  And she’s running away in the distance through a desert where they can’t see her. She ended up burning her house down and tried to cross the Mexican/ American border illegally with some others. This sets her out on the adventure of her lifetime.

In a parallel storyline a man named Aiden (Paul Mescal) is punching a bag, then he’s cooking burgers at a family gathering. A girl tries hitting on the man while making burgers, but his wife steps in and is trying to give him advice. The same man is sitting alone playing the guitar and singing,  and his sister scolds him about being alone singing and playing the guitar,  “You need to do something with your like” she says.

The guitar/singing guy ends up goes on patrol at night on the border and comes across Mexicans trying to cross the border. The man he’s with shoots some of them at first sight. The young Mexican woman Carmen from earlier steals a truck and gets away, the guy named Aiden jumps in and goes with her. He helps her escape instead of turning her into the authorities. Carmen shoots and kills the guy who was shooting at her and the others.

This film becomes a story of these two running for their lives most of the time. We see Carmen dancing with another woman while Aiden watches on. This shows the viewers that she had a talent. The dancing is accompanied by beautiful music playing alongside the dancing. with flames in the background. This precedes them going to California, to  get shelter at her aunt’s dance club, 

This film is a bit of a mixed bag. It has events of a road picture while also showing the musical side in the form of sultry intense dancing. The dancing is always accompanied by very good music by Nicholas Birtell. The dance scenes are very intense. Add in some other elements and you have a decent film about people looking for love and direction in their lives. It’s a passionate story. in which Mescal and Barrera give their all. It’s just not going to be for everybody. 

Carmen has mixes of brilliance thrown in with average story beats. The acting by Mescal and Barrera is good but it’s the dancing scenes that differentiate this movie from an average run-of-the-mill road journey picture. They have a life of their own within the film. They just felt separate from everything else going on in the story. It was like there were two good ideas for a movie thrown together. I don’t know if they mixed together properly. 

3 stars 

Dan Skip Allen

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