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Raising Victor Vargas
cast: Victor Rasuk, Judy Marte, and Altagracia Guzman

director: Peter Sollett

88 minutes (15) 2002
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail
[released 5 April]

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
Victor, his innocent younger brother and hostile sister, are being raised on the wrong side of the tracks by their grandmother. The kids are just reaching the age where the opposite sex is becoming attractive but, with their reputations to think of, and Grandma functioning as the sexual Thought Police, attaining any kind of sexual or emotional maturity is fraught with danger. Victor takes up with the beautiful Judy, doing his street cred no end of good, but their relationship is soon derailed by gossip and mistrust; and as he takes the blame for the rising tensions within the family, they're heading for a showdown...
   Raising Victor Vargas is a deceptively slow-paced movie that tries to get inside the heads of curious, insecure teenagers with too much time on their hands and no realistic role models. Hiding its careful construction within a languid, beautifully shot documentary style, it's a largely enjoyable, if extremely low-key, film. The young cast, mostly new to film, are extremely believable, with Victor Rasuk carrying the film impressively as our agreeable, vulnerable young hero, and Judy Marte excellent as a girl understandably uncertain what she wants from a relationship. Altagracia Guzman lends able support as their iron-willed grandmother, who's having difficulty accepting that they have to grow up eventually.
   Admittedly, very little happens within the movie, and the wisecracking street talk can get a little wearying - particularly since some of it is very hard to hear. But as a subtle portrait of disaffected youth and their fumbling attempts to find a place in the world, this is an enjoyable and absorbing piece of work.
   DVD extras are hardly lavish: a trailer, website link (no use to us Mac owners!), and, more interestingly, a short film, Five Feet High And Rising, starring Victor Rasuk and rehearsing the themes and basic characters of the feature.
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