Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Original title:Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Director:Aitch Alberto
Running time:96 minutes
Release date:08 september 2023
1987, El Paso. Ari and Dante, two teenagers with nothing in common, become instant friends. Yet they forge a deep friendship that will change their lives forever.

Mulder's Review

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a beautifully crafted coming-of-age film that immerses audiences in the transformative journey of two Mexican-American teenagers in the late 1980s. Directed by Aitch Alberto and based on Benjamin Alire Sáenz's beloved coming-of-age novel, the film explores the complexities of identity, friendship and first love in a refreshingly authentic and heartfelt way.

Set against the backdrop of El Paso, Texas, the film introduces us to Aristotle Ari Mendoza (Max Pelayo) and Dante Quintana (Reese Gonzales). Ari is a quiet, introspective loner, struggling with unresolved emotions and the weight of a family trauma. Dante, on the other hand, radiates a carefree spirit and an unshakeable will to enjoy life's experiences. The first meeting at the local pool paves the way for a connection that evolves into a deep and meaningful bond.

One of the strongest aspects of the film is the portrayal of the characters' contrasting personalities. Max Pelayo and Reese Gonzales deliver remarkable performances that capture the essence of Ari and Dante. Pelayo's interpretation of Ari's internal struggles and emotional barriers is raw and compelling, allowing the audience to identify with his journey of self-discovery. Gonzales brings an infectious energy to Dante, infusing the character with genuine warmth and authenticity. Their chemistry is palpable, creating a dynamic that draws viewers into their world.

Aitch Alberto's direction deftly navigates the delicate terrain of adolescent emotions. The film moves seamlessly from light moments to deep introspection, capturing the essence of youth and vulnerability. Cinematographer Akis Konstantakopoulos beautifully captures the Texas landscape, using its vast expanses to reflect the emotional landscapes of the characters.

As the story unfolds, the film explores multifaceted themes, including cultural identity, family dynamics and sexual orientation. The intersection of Mexican-American heritage and personal growth is woven into the fabric of the story, enriching the characters' experiences. Dante's exploration of his own Mexican identity, coupled with Ari's inner turmoil and family history, adds depth and authenticity to the narrative.

The film also takes on the important task of depicting the characters' sexual awakening and their awareness of same-sex attraction. At a time when the portrayal of homosexuals in cinema is crucial, Aristotle and Dante tackles these themes with sensitivity and nuance. The characters' journey to self-acceptance is poignant and relatable, resonating with viewers regardless of their own experiences.

The supporting cast plays a vital role in reinforcing the film's emotional impact. Eugenio Derbez and Veronica Falcon play Ari's parents, capturing the complexity of their relationship and the challenges of communication within the family. Kevin Alejandro and Eva Longoria bring warmth to their characters as Dante's parents, embodying acceptance and support in a way that is both realistic and comforting.

The fact that the film is set in the late 1980s allows it to explore the societal and cultural context of the time. References to real events, such as the AIDS crisis and anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, anchor the story in historical reality, highlighting the challenges faced by gay teenagers at the time. This contextual backdrop enriches the characters' struggles and lends depth to their journeys.

While the film admirably captures the essence of Sáenz's novel, there are moments when the narrative seems a little rushed or weighed down by the weight of its themes. Certain subplots and secondary characters could have been further developed, allowing for a more immersive exploration of the characters' experiences. Nevertheless, Alberto's direction and the performances of the lead actors maintain the film's emotional resonance.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a poignant and evocative film that encapsulates the essence of youth, friendship and self-discovery. The chemistry between Max Pelayo and Reese Gonzales, combined with Aitch Alberto's direction, lends authenticity and depth to the characters' journeys. The film's commitment to representing diverse perspectives, coupled with its exploration of identity and first love, makes it a timely and impactful addition to the coming-of-age genre.

As audiences are invited to accompany Ari and Dante on their transformative journey, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe reminds us that cinema has the power to reflect the human experiences and emotions we share. It testifies to the importance of authentic storytelling and representation, as well as the enduring importance of discovering the hidden truths of the universe.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe 
Written and Directed by Aitch Alberto
Based on Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Produced by Eugenio Derbez, Kyra Sedgwick, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Valerie Stadler, Ben Odell, Dylan Sellers, Chris Parker
Starring Max Pelayo, Reese Gonzales
Cinematography : Akis Konstantakopoulos
Edited by Stefanie Visser
Music by Isabella Summers
Production companies : Limelight, 3Pas Studios, Big Swing Productions, Boies Schiller Entertainment, 5000 Broadway Productions
Distributed by : Blue Fox Entertainment
Release dates : September 9, 2022 (TIFF), September 8, 2023 (United States)
Running time : 96 minutes

Seen 4 september 2023 at Deauville international center

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