Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community means that watching our stories on the big screen often involves reliving so much of the pain that’s been endured by us for decades. Often our narratives are led by our struggle, but imagine how refreshing it is to discover a film that shines the light on our love. Told in two parts that seamlessly blends two genres together, I Carry You With Me celebrates an unshakeable kind of love. Led by Christian Vázquez and Armando Espitia, this film tells an inspiring love story. Which is exactly what drew Christian Vázquez to the project, “What brought my attention to this project is that I wanted to give life to two human beings with this fight and this energy that fought for what they wanted and made their dreams come true. For me that’s such an act of bravery against life, so much strength, that’s what attracted me to this role.”
The first part of I Carry You With Me is portrayed by Christian Vázquez (Gerardo) and Armando Espitia (Iván). We meet Gerardo and Iván in their early twenties when they’re both living in Mexico. Their first meeting happens at a party and their connection is instant. Though their love is strong, eventually Gerardo realizes that he won’t be able to thrive in Mexico; he’s an aspiring chef and can’t seem to get the proper opportunities to advance his career. Eventually Iván makes the difficult decision to immigrate to the United States, leaving Gerardo behind. Once in the United States, Iván lands in New York City where he works his way up in the kitchen of different restaurants. Though Gerardo stayed behind, the distance and the Visa rejections put a strain on their relationship and though the relationship almost comes to an end, Gerardo eventually makes the dangerous trek to join Iván in the United States. The second part of this film is told in a documentary format. The years have passed and we see how Gerardo and Ivan’s work has paid off.
As they get ready to open a restaurant in Brooklyn, New York they take time to sit down and reflect on their lives. Gerardo misses his son who is still in Mexico and though aware that he cannot easily travel back home, he starts looking into ways to safely and legally visit his son. I Carry You With Me is a wonderful reminder of just how layered our stories are. This is the immigrant story that keeps missing from the narrative that often controls our media. Gerardo and Iván came into this country in an attempt to better their lives because Mexico could not provide them with the opportunities that they needed to exist happily. They worked hard, made their dreams come true, contributed to the U.S. economy and yet still have restrictions on how free they really are in this country.
The film does not shy away from the pain, something that Christian is grateful for. He says, “I believe that everything that they’ve experienced in general has been amplified by the love they have for each other. Not just the love for each other but the love that they have for their family, the love that they left behind; a country, a culture. I also think that that’s what Armando and I focused on because that’s what we wanted to represent in the film.” The struggles in this story are clear but they don’t run the narrative; even though Iván is in the closet and Gerardo’s dad is extremely homophobic, Director Heidi Ewing roots the storytelling in their love. This film is clearly a group effort and Christian makes that clear, “What the three of us did together, with the crew and in general, what we were doing was an act of love because we were giving life to these characters in a way that was just and with dignity for the truth. I got very excited about it all because it constantly motivated me, to say, of course this is how things should be done.” The performances in this film will stay with you long after it’s over, Christian Vázquez and Armando Espitia gave us a portrayal of Gerardo and Iván that never felt mimicked, it had a feeling of authenticity that will stay with you long after the film is over. Heidi Ewing tells this story with so much empathy that you will be rooting for Gerardo and Iván the entire time.
If you ever need a reminder of how much work is left to do in terms of LGBTQ+ rights, I urge you to watch I Carry You With Me. Though this film is really a celebration of two Mexican men in love, it also helps highlight the misogyny and homophobia that plagues our culture. Progress has been made but we must refuse to be complicit because there is still so much work left to do. I Carry You With Me is playing now in LA & NY.