Review by Camden Ferrell
Long Gone By premiered at the 2019 New York Latino Film Festival. This is the first narrative feature of director Andrew Morgan. The movie has some moments that drag a little too much, but it ultimately succeeds due to its timely premise, great acting, and engaging execution.
In this movie, Ana, a single mother from Nicaragua, is informed that she will soon be deported from her home in Indiana. During all of this, her daughter, Izzy, is accepted to Indiana University but due to her immigration status, she can’t the financial assistance needed. Ana decides to risk everything to pay off her daughter’s tuition before she is deported. This is a story that is very timely, and it’s a story that says a lot about our current system of immigration.
The screenplay by Morgan and David Wappel is simple yet effective. Ana’s conversation with the school about finances may seem mundane but there’s a troubling subtext of economic oppression that many immigrants in the U.S. face. Similar moments are highlighted throughout the film, and it balances its social commentary with some really sweet and charming scenes of Izzy’s high school experience. It doesn’t juggle too much, but it makes the most of what it has.
The acting in this film is great. Erica Muñoz plays Ana, and she carries this film very well. She plays the role with a certain maternal instinct that is so recognizable but difficult to describe. She does a fascinating job of showing the stress of her situation in a way that isn’t too melodramatic. Izzy Hau’ula plays Izzy, and she gives an impressive first performance. There are times where it can feel a bit stale, but for the most part, she gives a strong performance that supports Muñoz very well.
Morgan’s direction is really interesting to see. He often blends genres throughout the film, and it’s a juggling act that is interesting to see and mostly works. There are elements of drama, suspense, and coming-of-age that’s refreshing to see. He especially excels in the way he executes scenes of suspense but also lingering agony. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it does make the film more captivating.
One of the few flaws of this film comes from its pacing. While most of the scenes are paced very well, there are some moments that feel out of place due to how it slows the film’s momentum. It doesn’t happen too often, but it is very noticeable. Even though it’s an essential story, it is one that could have benefited from some more brevity.
This movie is about the undying love of a mother and the lengths one mother is willing to go to secure the future of her daughter. It’s a lasting portrait of love, sacrifice, and modern oppression. There may be many films tackling the status of immigrants, but there aren’t a lot that give it the maternal angle from the perspective of the mother. It makes the film feel necessary and more honest, and it really does highlight the human cost of such harmful systems.
Long Gone By has no shortness of humanity, and it uses it to tell a harrowing story of motherly love. Despite its few flaws, this is a movie that is definitely worth watching. It features a strong leading performance from Muñoz and a promising debut from Hau’ula.
Long Gone By premieres on HBO Latino on May 1 at 8pm EST. It will also be available on HBO NOW, HBO On Demand, and HBO GO.