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Don’t Let Me Drown (DVD Review)

28 Sep, 2010 By: Billy Gil

Street 10/5/10
$14.98 DVD
Rated ‘R’ for pervasive language and some sexual references.
Stars Ricardo Chavira, E.J. Bonilla, Gina Torres, Gleendilys Inoa.

Don’t Let Me Drown presents a realistic street romance (think Kids, not Save the Last Dance) against the backdrop of 9/11. Despite that tall order, it’s fairly successful as a fresh look at life as a teen in the city.

Lalo (E.J. Bonilla) meets Stefanie (Gleendilys Inoa) at a birthday party and tries to hit on her by remarking that the news only seems to report on tragedies that happen in the United States while people the world over die and starve every day. Bad idea. Stefanie’s sister died in the Twin Towers, so she wants nothing to do with the hapless schmuck.

But Lalo slowly works his way into Stefanie’s heart (in one awkward sequence of events, Stefanie laughs at Lalo for soiling his pants and Lalo later lets Stefanie know about a stain on her pants in a more tactful way). The duo’s budding romance is undercut, however, by trouble at home — Stefanie’s well-meaning but short-fused father (“Desperate Housewives’” Ricardo Chavira in a strong turn) berates his wife and forbids his daughter from seeing Lalo.

Don’t Let Me Drown’s ideas aren’t radical — star-crossed young lovers in an urban setting is at least as old as West Side Story — but its refusal to either exploit its characters with over-the-top caricature or betray their authenticity sets it apart. For most of the film, the 9/11 theme doesn’t seem particularly necessary as the film is strong enough without it, but it does serve as a reminder that such tragedies affect individuals in ways that extend beyond those typically seen.

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