Sugar follows the life of a 19 year old baseball player from the Dominican Republic in the US. The film takes its name from the “sweet” way he pitches a knuckle curve.
This earns him a lucky break as he joins a US minor league team, the Kansas City Knights.
In a classic coming of age story, we witness the process of self-discovery that Sugar undergoes. He leaves his family and friends back home, and enters a completely different world.
The minor league baseball training camp he ends up in is located in rural Iowa, which has its own “cultural sensibilities”.
This creates a sense of mystification and ultimately isolation for Sugar.
The loving, rather eccentric care of his two elderly hosts and a relationship with a young Christian woman are counterposed to the brutally competitive training regime. It is clear that Sugar is never quite able to fit in.
The film is at its most interesting when it poignantly illustrates the traumatic experience that must be predominant among those who become migrants in order to realise their ambitions under capitalism.
Moreover, the film deals with further political subtexts – such as the role of Christianity in the US and the experience of Iraq. During dinner at Sugar’s hosts’ house, their son is said to be in Iraq, bringing about a tellingly awkward silence.
Sugar eventually asserts his identity against the elitism of professional baseball, which is a moment of touching optimism.
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Film out now