I Carry You With Me blends narrative and documentary filmmaking into a beautiful examination of love across borders. It tells the true story of the love between two Mexican men: aspiring closeted chef Ivan (Armando Espitia) and high school teacher Gerardo (Christian Vazquez). When Ivan gets snubbed for a promotion to finally work in the kitchen, it’s the first red flag that his life’s ambition might not be realized in Mexico.
Once he meets Gerardo, the two share an instant connection. Ivan, who can “pass as straight,” has a child with his ex that he initially hides from Gerardo. If she finds out that Ivan is gay, he’s afraid she’ll never let him see his son again. This turns out to be a precursor for exactly what happens; after an injury, Ivan’s mother, his ex, and his son show up at his doorstep when Ivan has Gerardo upstairs. They know Ivan is hiding something. This turns out to be the final straw for Ivan living in Mexico—in order to have opportunity and live his life freely, Ivan knows he cannot be chained down to his Mexican roots. Gerardo is initially resistant to Ivan leaving (“Ivan, we’re gay, we don’t pick avocados”), but knows he must let his love pursue his passions.
It’s not that easy to leave Mexico behind, as Ivan’s recurring dreams of him returning to his hometown haunt him forever. There’s a melodic beauty to every flashback, fleshing out three distinct time periods in the lives of Ivan and Gerardo. Different actors portray them through youth, their 20’s, and then modern day. I Carry You With Me weaves through a rollercoaster of emotions. This is quietly reflected in the way both of their fathers reacted to signs they were gay at a very young age. Ivan wants a Quinceañera, and gets disheartened when he learns it’s only for girls. His sister dresses him up and puts on makeup; when their father discovers them, he’s not happy at all, telling Ivan to take off his dress immediately. Contrastly, Gerardo’s father takes him into a cornfield after hearing people talking about his son’s sensibilities around town. He tells Gerardo that “people like you” get killed and tossed off a mountain, then abruptly leaves the child and forces him to walk home alone.
The final act’s infusion of documentary style works well thanks to impeccable casting, and embodying the personalities of these real-life people. Armando Espitia and Christian Vazquez have undeniable chemistry. They share a steamy makeout session on a scenic rooftop. Tender closeups reveal the passion of their love. Gerardo tells Ivan early in their relationship that he would “make a pretty complicated boyfriend,” and it’s a major understatement. The fact that their love faces so many trials and bumps in the road is a testament to the power of connection. When the two are separated by the US border, Gerardo desperately tries to see Ivan legally, but they won’t let him cross. Commentary on immigration and the immigrant lifestyle dig deep—the script from Heidi Ewing and Alan Page gives a fresh perspective, and fuels meaningful conversations. The true meaning of the title only unfurls in the final minutes, with the conclusion being a perfect but heartbreaking cherry on top of this impressive gay drama.
I Carry You With Me screened at the Inside Out LGBT Film Festival on May 27th, and opens in theaters on June 25th.