La Leyenda Negra is a challenging and uncompromising film that tackles immigration head on. The movie is a different type of coming of age story. Aleteia (Monica Betancourt) is in her senior year of high school. Changes by the Trump administration to immigration laws are about to make her an undocumented immigrant. There are also themes of loss and homophobia.
The movie has a lot of important messages to deliver. Immigration, racism, and sexuality are all topical issues. La Leyenda Negra does a great job of confronting the audience with these issues. The movie never shoehorns anything in. The entire narrative is confrontational by nature. This gives a a natural feeling to everything that is going on.
What may wear on the audience is the movie’s insistence on only taking on the harder subjects. There are some fleeting moments are hopefulness and love, but they are few and far between. There is little room for joy and the decision to shoot on black and white only adds to the gloomy atmosphere. For better and worse, La Leyenda Negra goes all in on its topics.
Another interesting choice from writer-director Patricia Vidal Delgado is the lack of exposition. Much of La Leyenda Negra is inferred instead of just explained. This is a stark difference from many movies and provides a more realistic feel. This is not necessarily an issue since the plot never gets so complicated that things need to be explained to the audience. That being said, this also means there is less structure to the film.
For all the power in the narrative, La Leyenda Negra falters on the production end. Delgado is more concerned with getting her message across leading to a strong script with some issues with the camera. Some shots look clumsy and lighting is a constant issue, for example. Many will counter that this is not a movie that cares about how it looks; it is one that has something to say. That is a valid point, but it does not stop these less polished moments from being distracting.
There are some movies that convey such an important message they have to be seen. These stories point a mirror up to society and force everyone to look at the uglier parts. La Leyenda Negra bravely takes on some of these topics. It is an unflinching look at today’s America and will resonate with many. Ultimately, its heart is in the right place; it just takes on too much.
La Leyenda Negra premieres on HBO December 4.
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