(director: Icier Bollain; screenwriters: Paul Laverty/autobiography No Way Home by Carlos Acosta; cinematographer: Alex Catalán; editor: Nacho Ruiz Capillas; music: Alberto Iglesias; cast: Carlos Acosta, Santiago Alfonso (Pedro Acosta), Edilson Manuel Olbera Núñez (Carlos Acosta as an adolescent), Keyvin Martinez (young Carlos), Laura De La Uz (Maestra Chery ), Yerlín Pérez (Maria), Mario Sergio Elías (Mario), Andrea Doimeadíos (Berta), César Domínguez (Opito); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Andrea Calderwood, Juan Gordon; Morena Films; 2018-Spain/Cuba/UK/Germany-in Spanish & English with subtitles)

It works for ballet lovers who don’t mind that it’s a conventional film.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A ballet bio of the black Cuban internationally renown dancer Carlos Acosta, nicknamed Yuli by his dad. It’s based on his 2007 autobiography No Way Home. The Spanish filmmaker Icier Bollain (“The Olive Tree”/”Even The Rain”) directs this rags-to-riches story with emotional fervor and includes many glorious musical numbers, while the acting remains suspect in this uneven production. It’s written as a crowd-pleaser by the director’s English husband Paul Laverty and focuses on the complex father-son relationship. The real Carlos Acosta appears and looks back on his many career challenges, such as surviving both poverty and racial bias, the professional dance scene and how he fared under the Fidel Castro regime. The legendary Carlos Acosta is the first black dancer to perform some of the most recognized ballet roles, such as Romeo (shown in the act through archive footage of his London Royal Ballet performance).Carlos was raised in the indigent barrio of Havana, with his white mother Maria (Yerlín Perez) and his black truck-driver father Pedro (Santiago Alfonso). The domineering father is first introduced dragging Yuli, as a child, away from a Michael Jackson break-dancing routine with his barrio friends. Dad forces him to attend the Cuban School of Ballet, where a teacher, Chery (De la Uz), recognizes his talent and sets up a strict training regime for him to follow. Edilson Manuel Olbera Núñez plays Yuli as a pre-teen, while Keyvin Martinez (a dancer in Acosta’s company) plays him as a young man. We learn little about the family dynamics but learn that his sister Berta (Andrea Doimeadíos) is suffering from mental illness. What Bollaín does well is provide outstanding dance routines, that gives the film its vitality and joy. Otherwise, the script is sometimes awkward, with misplaced diatribes on slavery and a schematic narrative. But it works for ballet lovers who don’t mind that it’s a conventional film.

REVIEWED ON 2/1/2019 GRADE: B      https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/