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Victor is growing up on the Lower East Side and is at the age where he is driven by desire and unchained by maturity. His image as a ladies man is shattered when he is found in Fat Donna's bedroom. Soon, as a result of his sister's big mouth, the whole Dominican community knows. Full of confidence, Victor sets out to reclaim his image by winning Judy. Judy proves to be elusive and difficult. Victor persists, and with a surprising tenderness, ultimately wins Judy's heart.Written by
An inner city neighborhood trial and tribulations put to film of a poor Latino family in New York would seem to be nothing more than a setup for hard ship and perhaps gang violence. However, the beauty of a film like Raising Victor Vargas is it can stick with a simple story of a young mans attempt at coming of age while sidestepping the usual affairs that such an environment is not conducive or even believable to a childhood romance.
We first meet Victor in the room of some young girls apartment. It soon becomes apparent that Victor's reasoning for being in this room is to loose his virginity simply for the fact that when he brags to his friends that he's not a virgin he can finally be telling the truth for once. As a 16 year old this important in the macho culture that pre-dominates around his neighborhood.
It soon comes apparent though, that Victor won't have sex with this young girl, and more importantly Victor discovers a poolside young beauty named Judy that he would like to charm. However, it's up to Victor to prove himself capable of being a decent man as Judy has to endure constant harassment and has given up on the idea of men in general.
Some other relationships develop between some of the other younger kids around the neighborhood and they all feel distinctly genuine. But it's Victor's ability to try to learn how to treat people right while respecting his Dominican grandmother that become the center and highlight of the film. Victor (played by Victor Rasuk) embodies a youthful charm in this film that is so natural and can't be faked. The grandmother (played by Altagracia Guzman) is amazing as the old fashioned family protectorate who has to keep everyone in line. Your heart just aches for this old woman who sees in Victor perhaps her own previous husband and fears only the worst.
Peter Sollet has really worked a gem of a film showing these kids as without much but truly blessed with the gift of caring and that's what makes the film so unique. There's even a great scene where the grandma takes Victor to social services simply to say I have had enough of him, he's trouble, he's a bad influence' and that she just can't take it anymore with his antics. In the end the social worker just tells her to go home and stop complaining. Any other film would instead make it an overdramatic tug of war.
Without spoiling anything, the courting of Judy ends in a way that for the most part works in the context that Victor and the other characters inhabit. It's a wonderful tale of youthful love in a setting that probably happens more often than you think.
Rating 8 out of 10
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