[Film Fest] No Sundance experience beats that of wandering into a film with an unknowncast and director and finding yourself completely wrapped up in the joys andturmoils of its characters' lives. For a couple hours, you forget all thefestival cynicism, the sleep deprivation, the hour-long shuttle rides andbask in the discovery.
The Dramatic Competition entry Don't Let Me Drown delivers such an experience. Cruz Angeles' film focuses on a story of young love during troubled times. It weaves through the lives of two Brooklyn families as they struggle in themonths after the Sept. 11 attacks. Lalo and Stefanie, the children of these families, find solace in one another.
While certain plot developments feel somewhat out of place, we never lose our affection for these great characters. The World Trade Center attacks impacted both families. Stefanie's sister died in one of the towers, causing her father to turn mean and overly protective; Lalo's father worked as a janitor in the towers, and now spendshis days inhaling harmful dust while trying to clean-up the wreckage.
But Don't Let Me Drown refuses to fall into despair. It instead evokes the loving relationships between friends and family, allowing extremely funny organic humor to grow out of the character interaction. Angeles' greatest asset is his cast, especially the teenagers. They play well-meaning kids who laugh at and tease one another, but ultimately have each other's interests at heart. The past may be haunting, but they know that their happiness depends on how they go into the future. (Jeremy Mathews)