"I'm a recovering gringo – go easy on me." "Accidental Expat" is a fascinating movie without a doubt. I tend to dig films that show me something about life I'd never otherwise know about, and this film was built from the fabric of an entirely different world than mine. Young Ramon got in trouble in the USA and ended up being deported back to his father's homeland in Mexico, even though he had never lived there. He also has little to no relationship with his old man, and from the interactions we see onscreen in this story, he's given very few reasons to want one. Some folks aren't cut out to be parents, and unfortunately, Ramon is now living with one of them. We instantly begin to question whether or not Ramon's father is completely inept at parenting, spiteful about the situation that has forced him to take in his son, or maybe even hateful towards him as a result…it could be any or all of these things. That being said, he at least understands that he has a responsibility to take Ramon in under his roof, and at the very least, that's a start of sorts.
Ramon gets a job at Foodavor while waiting for his tourist Visa to be accepted, even though the locals tell him directly that he's unknowingly become a permanent resident. I freakin' loved the scenes that took place at Foodavor – not only does he meet a great friend in Hector, but in general, they're important parts of this movie that provide essential contrast. If you ever want to be reminded what first-world privilege sounds like, good lord, get a job at Foodavor. The calls that Ramon has to take from his fellow Americans across the border, complaining about mundane problems like why their food isn't hot or hasn't arrived yet, while the young kid is trying to sort out his entire LIFE – I mean… it's really thought-provoking stuff that provides intense perspective. Most of our problems would pale in comparison to someone who has had their life upended by being sent to another country.
Despite the troubles that got him there in the first place and the trouble that seems to continually find him along the way, we know that deep down, Ramon, aka Raymond, is a good kid. He's technically an adult in many ways, but the situation of being sent to Mexico would be entirely reductive to a person's evolution. He doesn't speak the language or know the customs or culture, and he's just doing his level best to get by. Played perfectly by Edgar de Santiago, Ramon seems like a complete fish out of water - even though it's assumed he should have no problem belonging to a place he's never really been to. Therein lies the main issues surrounding deportation and the lack of understanding that comes along with what's involved – the law seems to assume that our responsibilities would stop at the border, but turning a blind eye to what really happens in a situation like this one is nothing short of cruel. People are people, and home is home – you can't just go expecting that sending someone to a completely different country would be a seamless transition & we should be much more responsible in making that decision than we have been, or at least more humane. Ramon broke American laws as an American in the life that he knew on their soil…to send him out of the country as a result is 100% wrong. Maybe that's my opinion, but I know I'm not alone in thinking that way. We have to do better than this.
Scenes like when Ramon has a particularly bad day at work result in one of the most powerful moments in the film, where his boss tells him to go home. What does that even mean? If that was an option, he surely would – none of what he's going through is fair; Ramon was only eight months old when he left for America as a young child, and the USA is all he has ever known. Stuck in Mexico, where he might be for the rest of his life unless he's willing to cross the Rio Grande illegally, he's forced to adapt, and it certainly isn't easy for him. Even maintaining a relationship with his new girlfriend, Monica (Fatima Favela), is entirely challenging. Ramon's journey shows us how difficult life is for a 'dreamer' in the United States at its roots - and the consequences of inconsiderate laws that don't take basic human decency into account.
"Accidental Expat" is an extremely smart movie that makes its points with pinpoint accuracy - and delivers an excruciating message that needs to be heard no matter how hard it is to hear it. I thought the acting was stellar all-around, from Ramon's lead to his girlfriend Monica, and especially the complex character of Ramon's father, Miguel, expertly played by Enrique Arreola. It's well directed, well written, and a film built on significant substance and a real point of view. Movies like "Accidental Expat" truly matter and create awareness of issues that don't get enough attention - by revealing the other side of the story we so rarely see. The drama and story are extremely realistic, and what you'll witness happening to Ramon could be the tale of someone you might even know. I loved the authenticity in every moment and felt like this was certainly a story well worth telling that gives a voice to countless people who don't have the opportunity, means, or ability to speak up on their own behalf. I would have watched for even longer if the story kept on going, but Writer/Director Alan Barr had to draw the line somewhere, of course. Even the somewhat low-key but abrupt ending makes a point, too – these stories continue to go on whether or not we're there to witness them happening. I'm going with a strong four stars out of five for "Accidental Expat" – this is a really well-done family drama.