There’s nothing flashy or fancy about Collisions (opening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood on Friday, Nov. 8), but everything about this pointed, charming little film is just about perfect. For those in the market for a family-friendly drama dealing with a very serious issue, look no further.
Written and directed by New Zealand-born Richard Levien, Collisions is a locally produced gem set in San Francisco, where single mom Yoana (Ana de la Reguera) is raising daughter Itan (Izabella Alvarez) and son Neto (Jason Garcia Jr.) in unostentatious but comfortable surroundings. Though adolescent Itan resents having to watch her baby brother while mom works the night shift, life is, by and large, pretty good.
That changes when ICE agents break into the family’s apartment while the kids are at school and take undocumented immigrant Yoana into custody. Returning home to an empty nest, Itan and Neto are met by representatives of Child Protective Services, who put them in the temporary care of estranged Uncle Evencio (Jesse Garcia), an Oakland truck driver lucky enough to have a green card.
Fearless and highly motivated, Itan is the polar opposite of Evencio, a one-day-at-a-time type who doesn’t want to be tied down by anyone or anything. Unsurprisingly, the two don’t get along, but eventually Itan convinces him to help the children reunite with their mother — assuming, of course, they can find out where she’s being held in the nation’s deportation archipelago.
“Every four minutes, a US citizen child is separated from a parent by deportation,” Collisions’ preface informs us, suggesting that the tale it tells is not an unusual one. Torn apart by cruel and often illogical laws and rules that run counter to the platitudinous pronouncements of our otherwise notoriously “pro-family” politicians, Yoana and her kids have become trapped in different parts of the same opaque, Kafkaesque hall of bureaucratic mirrors.
Collisions’ open-ended denouement presents Itan and Yoana with the sort of unsatisfactory choices hundreds of other immigrant families face every day. Indeed, the end is not the end, as Evencio wryly notes: instead, it’s just the beginning of another, greater challenge.
While Levien coaxes superb performances from his entire cast, Alvarez makes the greatest impression as the tweenager willing to go anywhere or do anything to find her mother. Almost as good is the elder Garcia, whose grudging indifference to his sister’s plight turns to willing collaboration after Itan offers bait in the form of a portion of her college fund. (Don’t worry, though. He’s not a complete louse.)
Shot in the Bay Area (look, there’s Delauers!) and Tijuana with the support of SFFILM (the same organization that produces the annual San Francisco International Film Festival), Collisions feels complete and unhurried despite clocking in at a concise eighty minutes. The winner of the Audience Award at January’s SF Indiefest — as well as other prizes on the festival circuit — this lovely little film is as educational as it is entertaining.