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film review

Louis Gossett Jr. and Ana Golja in The Cuban.Handout

  • The Cuban
  • Directed by Sergio Navarretta
  • Written by Alessandra Piccione
  • Starring Ana Golja, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Louis Gossett Jr.
  • Classification PG; 109 minutes

Rating:

2 out of 4 stars

A sweet but slight tale of memory and unlikely friendship, The Cuban could have easily slipped into the unremarkable made-for-Canadian-television landscape were it not for two big, essential casting coups. By managing to rope in both Louis Gossett Jr. and Shohreh Aghdashloo into their drama, director Sergio Navarretta and writing partner Alessandra Piccione immediately elevate a forgettable affair into something that can be treasured, if you squint hard enough.

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Ana Golja, left, plays a pre-med student caring for Louis Gossett Jr.'s character.Handout

Playing a once-famed Cuban musician who now spends his days as just another obligation for the staff of a nursing home, Gossett Jr. digs deeper into his material than the screenplay allows, creating a near-fully realized portrait of loneliness and loss. On the other side of the story, Aghdashloo does equally solid, if less meaty, work as the overprotective aunt of the premed student (Ana Golja) tasked with caring for the titular character.

Perhaps sensing that the rest of his story – mostly focusing around the earnest do-goodery of Golja’s aide – falls emotionally flat, Navarretta lavishes attention on his two marquee players, creating tiny moments of poignancy. Less successful are the director’s attempts to merge fantasy with flashback, where the film’s budget limitations are put in the spotlight. But don’t worry too much about these slips – just concentrate on what Gossett Jr. is doing and you’ll leave with enough warm memories.

The Cuban screens July 20 at the Lavazza Drive-In Film Festival in Toronto before opening July 31 at Oakville’s 5 Drive-In, with other Canadian drive-in releases set for August.

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