Rolando (Carlos Guerrero) is what one might describe as a “crazy homeless person.” He’s obviously had a seriously traumatic event take place in his life, and his grasp on reality is weak at best. Living on the beach, he suffers daily as he remembers the life he’s left behind; a life where he was rich and successful, but also often neglectful of his young son (Carlos Guerrero Jr.).
At the same time, Vanessa (Carmen López) is trying to find her son, who has been missing for many months. Last seen with his father, both disappeared into thin air with nary a clue. Vanessa’s frustration and fear grows, as the homeless Rolando wanders around, playing out the memories of his son.
Joel Rodriguez’s Promises can be an intense experience at times. We grasp early on that Rolando and Vanessa are both missing the same child, though the fate of the young boy isn’t clear. For most of the film we see the mental plight of the Rolando of today juxtaposed with his memories of his son, and we ride a bit of an emotional rollercoaster as we try to figure out exactly what happened.
The downside of this experience, however, is that the film begins to feel like it is spinning its wheels; here’s another scene of Rolando talking to himself, haunted by his missing son, for example. We want to solve the mystery so much, we start to resent the time it takes to get to those answers.
And those answers aren’t necessarily going to be for everyone. For me, they raised even more questions that will remain unanswered by the film’s final minutes. Still, the film’s heart is in the right place, even if I was left slightly less satisfied than I would have liked.
Ultimately, the film is notable for the strong performance of lead actor, and writer, Carlos Guerrero. When you consider who he is when you first meet him, and who he is in his memories, the differences are astounding. A beard goes a long way, sure, but there’s more to the characterization than just the aesthetics. Guerrero delivers the goods and, if nothing else, this film shows he can convincingly play unhinged and damaged with the best of them.
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