Despite a very wobbly screenplay, this film's decent cast and gorgeous setting make it worth a look. It may be a somewhat awkward mix of comical slapstick, political ideas and darker drama, but the characters hold our interest, and the story is tangled enough to keep us wondering how it will work itself out.
It starts in Glasgow, where the political activist Rosa (Birthistle) decides to take her father's ashes to Cuba, where he once worked as an activist himself and met his wife, who later died there. Rosa's fashion-obsessed sister Allie (Wakefield) decides to come along, as well as Rosa's sardonic pal Conway (Dick). As they travel across the Cuban countryside they have a series of misadventures and meet two local men (Acosta and Simpson) who are a little too sexy and helpful to be trusted. And Rosa is reluctant to either fall in love or rely on any man.
Rosa's prickly personality is a big problem for a film that asks us to take a trip with her. She's so abrasive that she's not easy to like, and Birthistle struggles to make her sympathetic. Thankfully, she's an engaging actor who brings out Rosa's shock at having her idealism challenged by reality. And she has terrific chemistry with Acosta and Simpson, who are superb even as they simplistically represent certain aspects of Cuban society. Wakefield's story arc is less involving, but she's a lot of fun to watch, and Dick walks off with the film in an underwritten comic-relief role.
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All of these stories take place in Manhattan, with only one or two brief forays into other boroughs, and they all centre around relatively well-off people, mainly white or Asian. They're also quite serious and emotional, with only brief moments of humour dotted here and there, although some make us smile more than others. Each is about a male-female relationship--marriages, brief encounters, possibilities, life-long companionship. Most have a somewhat gimmicky twist, and a few are intriguingly oblique.
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