The Cuban follows pre-med student Mina (Ana Golja) as she begins work at an assisted living facility. There, she meets the nearly 80-year-old Luis Garcia (Louis Gossett Jr.), who was a famous Cuban jazz player back in the day. He does not eat the meals served him and is grumpy with just about everyone. But Mina, whose father gave her a love of music, figures out how to bring the spark back to Luis. She plays him jazz, cooks him Cuban food, and gets very personally invested.
All of which goes against the rules of the care home. She also begins dating Kris (Giacomo Gianniotti) but keeps it secret from her Aunt Bano (Shohreh Aghdashloo). Between keeping secrets at work, studying at home, lying to her family, and figuring out ways to make Luis happy, Mina’s life begins to spiral out of her control. Why would her aunt disapprove of Kris? Why is Luis’s family so distant? Will Mina crash and burn, or can she prevail and shine as bright as the sun?
“She plays him jazz, cooks him Cuban food, and gets very personally invested.”
Written by Alessandra Piccione and directed by Sergio Navarretta, The Cuban has a lot going for it. The cinematography, by Celiana Cárdenas, is exemplary. When Luis is (re)imagining his time as a musician, the camera glides across the dance floor and his band on stage, seemingly freed from reality. Which perfectly captures the dementia-stricken mental state in a visually engaging and dynamic way.
Such sequences are also much more colorful. The costumes are brighter, the lights are flashier, and the general mood is more pleasant than his housing’s grays and fluorescents. Maybe it is not reality, but remembering those days makes Luis happier than the present does, and the filmmakers, again, indicate such in a visual manner. This style slowly engrosses the viewer into the characters’ inner lives, even if they don’t realize it.
"…perfectly captures the dementia-stricken mental state in a visually engaging and dynamic way."