We are all for movies that focus on working-class Latino families dealing with unemployment, disease, and gentrification, but Willets Point is more like an epic student film with the dramaturgical caliber of an STD clinic’s grossly underfunded sex-education videos. This tale of urban struggle set in Queens, New York, follows Guillo (Alfredo Suarez), a car mechanic who can’t make rent, and his wife, Doris (Lorraine Rodriguez), some kind of wine saleswoman, as she first starts to feel the symptoms of Huntington’s Disease.
He doesn’t want to admit to her that he’s in major debt. She doesn’t want to tell him about her illness. In the meantime, we’re presented with some embarrassingly executed scenes with dialogue that’s either irrelevant or cringingly didactic, sloppy audio that cuts abruptly every time the camera angle changes (room-tone track, anyone?), and the kind of stiff acting that prevents filmic immersion better than any Brechtian technique ever could.
There is a way in which the “coarseness” of poverty can become an interesting non-aesthetic, but Willets Point makes the deadly mistake of striving for the same form of traditional moviemaking with a budget (shot-reverse shot, et al.) instead of pursing a more experimental style to coincide with its unconventional subject matter. Those mourning American film’s phobia against the non-Photoshopped lower-than-middle-classes and hoping to revert its paucity of representation would do well to explore Pedro Costa’s oeuvre and Glauber Rocha’s “aesthetic of hunger” films, not taking too literally Rocha’s well-known cinematic motto: “a camera in the hand and an idea in the head.” Good intentions alone still don’t make great movies.