“Collisions,” a new film written and directed by Richard Levien, is the story of one San Francisco family’s total disruption when their widowed mother (Ana de la Reguera) is arrested by ICE. Starring Izabella Alvarez as super smart 12-year-old Itan who takes care of her little brother Neto (Jason Garcia) and Jesse Garcia as their ne’er-do-well uncle Evencio, the movie has won thirteen film festival awards and premieres at Laemmle’s Ahrya Fine Arts in Beverly Hills this Thursday, October 3rd.
“Collisions” is strongly engaging and emotional without being a tearjerker, largely due to the understated performances and occasional humor. Alvarez is particularly great as Itan; she has the kind of interesting, expressive face that keeps you watching her and her thinness is the perfect contrast to her tough personality. After she and Neto come home to an empty, ransacked apartment, child services contacts their next of kin: estranged and frequently drunk truck driver Uncle Evencio. There is a particularly good scene with no dialogue where Itan and Neto are sitting with him in his living room for the first time, watching him drink and smoke and ignore them, and Itan’s expression is priceless. Just yesterday, she was building her science project and arguing like an ordinary tween with her overworked but loving mother Yoana, and now . . . WTF.
The following scenes where the three of them try to track down Yoana are seriously eye-opening, starting off with the fact that the doors at the detainment center office don’t have numbers when they were told to go to door number three. Then no one can tell the family where the mom has been moved. We also see the detained Yoana struggling to get a phone card to call Itan, only to find out that the one payphone the detainees can use will not connect to cell phones.
Because Itan cleverly programs her laptop to auto-search detention center websites, they finally discover that Yoana is in Phoenix, and then Evencio has to be bribed with her college fund savings to drive them there in his truck. Along the way, he both reveals his good side—clowning around with Neto and protecting him—and screws up a few times, but we also learn why he’s estranged from the family.
In the end there is some relief and joy, but realistically, things aren’t resolved and Itan will have to make a decision. I like the fact that she and Yoana are still discussing that even as the credits appear, because it serves as a reminder that this is happening now, all the time, even as we sit here. And obviously, in this fictional situation, there are advantages that not everyone has: for example, the laptop and the college fund! Recommended.