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Directed by Julio Quintana
Written by Julio Quintana and Chris Dowling
Starring Jimmy Gonzales, Dennis Quaid and Bruce McGill
Classification PG; 95 minutes
Once again, we find ourselves with a summer devoid of any real blockbusters. And if you live in Ontario like me, the reality is that you will not feel the cool embrace of sitting inside an air-conditioned movie theatre any time soon.
So where does that leave us? A long list of movies that we will only be able to see from the comforts of our own homes, if we’re lucky. Which is why the first “summer” movie I’ve seen this year has been Netflix’s Blue Miracle, a film that was never supposed to hit theatres anyway.
The film, based on the true story of how a bunch of kids living in a struggling Mexican orphanage get reeled into a fishing competition (sorry), is the second feature from director and co-writer Julio Quintana.
It stars Dennis Quaid as Wade, a drunk and grumpy fisherman, and Jimmy Gonzales as Omar, the caring owner of the orphanage, who all the kids call “Papa Omar.” And while the film has all the makings of something that could easily be overly saccharine because it’s so predictable, Blue Miracle manages to be a rather charming family-friendly affair.
The story centres around the orphanage in Cabo San Lucas, badly hit during 2014′s Hurricane Odile. Omar and his wife, Becca (Fernanda Urrejola), are worried about the orphanage’s finances as the number of boys they care for grows and resources dwindle. With a slew of overdue payments and collection calls, on top of losing some of the orphanage’s donors, the couple has no idea how they will make the money they need to repair their facilities.
So, a reluctant Omar visits friends at the headquarters of Bisbee’s (a fishing tournament company) to ask for their help with both calling local banks and vouching for him, which is when he encounters Wade – a has-been, perpetually sweaty competitive fisherman. Wade can only afford to enter the upcoming fishing tournament if he partners with a local, waiving his entry fee. So he agrees to work with Omar and some of his boys. If they win, Omar can save the orphanage and Wade can make a bit of cash as well.
The rest of the film plays out almost exactly how you’d imagine. Within the framework of a crowd-pleasing, redemption story, Quintana and co-writer Chris Dowling manage to imbue moments of true fun and sincerity throughout. The children in the movie are sweet and precocious and also frequently explain exactly what is happening so the viewer doesn’t get too confused. Gonzales plays Omar with a controlled warmth that could easily veer on corny. But somehow, it works.
I went into this movie as a cynic, but once I surrendered to what was happening, I ended up appreciating its more charming aspects. Even when it is at its most formulaic, it’s visually nice to watch, with sweeping shots of the ocean and colourful neon streets. Some of the more daring directorial choices make sense when you find out Quintana has worked under the mentorship of director Terrence Malick. But mostly, after more than a year of pandemic depression, it feels good to watch something uplifting where I knew everything was going to be fine in the end.
Blue Miracle is available to stream on Netflix starting May 28.
In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.