The story is framed by Chico's life in modern-day Havana, where the Castro revolution has left him as a shoeshiner. He's re-discovered by a Buena Vista Social Club-style documentary crew and real-life singer Morente, which sparks the story's moving final chapter. Rather then focus on the time period, the big social issues or the music itself, the filmmakers put the characters at the heart of the film, which keeps us hugely involved right from the start.
The Latin-infused jazz music is vividly meaningful (along the way we see Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Tito Puente and Nat King Cole), but we're drawn in by these complex people who don't always do the right thing. The connection between Chico and Rita is so strong that, even though it looks hopeless, we know they will have to meet again. And again. But with such vivid storytelling, it never feels repetitive.
The animation is simply gorgeous. It's so artful and detailed that it looks like the filmmakers shot the footage before converting it into striking hand-drawn images. Like Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist and Richard Linklater's Waking Life, it uses deep colours and stunning settings add to the texture of the story. And the dark drama is tinged with genuine sensuality and playful humour, plus vivid action sequences. And while the gorgeous song score is an essential part of the film, it's the romance that really gets under the skin.
Run time: 94 mins
In Theaters: Friday 19th November 2010
Box Office USA: $0.2M
Distributed by: GKIDS
Production compaines: Isle of Man Film, CinemaNX, Estudio Mariscal, Fernando Trueba Producciones Cinematográficas S.A., ICF Institut Català de Finances, HanWay Films, Institut Català de les Indústries Culturals, Instituto de Crédito Oficial (ICO), Instituto de la Cinematografía y de las Artes Audiovisuales (ICAA), Magic Light Pictures, Mesfilms, Televisió de Catalunya TV3, Televisión Española TVE
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Fresh: 56 Rotten: 9
IMDB: 7.2 / 10
Director: Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal, Tono Errando
Screenwriter: Fernando Trueba, Ignacio Martinez de Pison
Starring: Mario Guerra as Ramón (voice), Limara Meneses as Rita (voice), Eman Xor Oña as Chico (voice), Jon Adams as (voice), Renny Arozarena as (voice), Blanca Rosa Blanco as (voice), Jackie de la Nuez as (voice) (as Jakie de la Nuez), Rigoberto Ferrera as (voice), Ken Forman as (voice), Ray Gillon as (voice)