In an attempt to secure a sponsor, an unlikely group of Cuban refugees become a "family" as the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service gives families priority over others. In
Although the fact that its been sitting on the shelf for over a year should flash warning signs, this turns out to be a pleasantly engaging romantic comedy that quietly examines the nature of lasting love while giving its first rate cast ample opportunity to try out their Cuban accents.
Set in 1980, as the last exiles are fleeing Castros country, free-spirited Dottie (Tomei) is dreaming of a perfect life when she hits America. Also on the boat with very different dreams is Juan Raul Perez (Molina), a former political prisoner who 20 years previously sent his wife to America. Dottie is hoping to find a new life, Juan is hoping to find his old one. Both, however, find themselves in a holding pattern awaiting a US sponsor. As Juan struggles to find the old Perez family, Dottie starts to make a new one, pretending she is married to Juan, quickly adopting a son and grandfather in an attempt to make it in the land of her dreams.
As with her previous efforts Salaam Bombay and, to a lesser extent, Mississippi Masala, director Nair displays a real strength in drawing us into the world of her characters, displaying a good understanding of people and the ways they live. Shes helped, too, by a pretty decent cast. Tomei is a delight, Molina brings a dignity and humour to his role as the patriarch of two Perez families, while both Huston and Chazz Palminteri deliver strong, charm-heavy, support. And with complications inevitably ensuing when all the parties get together, the film has the sense to stick to its guns and go for the right ending.
A bit shabby, but not without heart.