Mosquita Y Mari: 2012 Sundance Film Festival

Chances are, we all remember our first love – whether or not it was reciprocated.

Such is the story in Mosquita Y Mari. In the Q&A after the movie, Screenwriter/Director Aurora Guerrero said the movie is about her first love, even though the girl never knew it.

In the film, studious high school sophomore Yolanda (Fenessa Pineda), who continually adds “A” papers to the refrigerator, befriends her rebellious, beautiful classmate, Mari (Venecia Troncoso), who could care less about school.

When a teacher wants Yolanda to share her math book with Mari (the lack of books is a nice moment of realism in today’s school system), Mari sits next to Yolanda, but prefers to listen to her CD player instead. Annoyed, she tells Yolanda she reminds her of a mosquita.

However, a few scenes later when Mari hears Yolanda defending her to some high school girls, the two start to become friends. Math binds them at first, though the movie is hardly about algebra. Rather, it is an honest, funny, charming, emotionally raw account of first love that anyone can relate to.

Soon, the girls start spending every minute together – so much so that their parents think each must be involved with a guy and hopes this “guy” doesn’t distract them from their studies. They find an abandoned space full of wrecked car parts (which is a lovely, atypical yet realistic setting that the girls make their own). They spend a lot of time in one such car, their metaphorical treehouse, listening to music, singing, studying, talking about the future, how they never want to be apart (while Yolanda is focused on college, Mari doesn’t see how it’s possible for her). Other times, they share ice cream cones or ride Mari’s bike together, one steering while the other balances on the back in their Huntington Park neighborhood, the physical setting being just as important a character as the actors. Soon, Mari calling Yolanda “Mosquita” becomes a name of endearment that grows as their relationship does.

Most of Mosquita and Mari’s connection isemotional without over-the-top teenage angst that seems to be commonplace in many teen movies. The physical moments between the girls are minute, yet intense. They never discuss what is developing between them, but just let it happen. Kudos to Guerrero and Director of Photography Magela Crosignani for keeping the camera on the girls longer during such moments, so we see their conflict while trying to come to terms with their sexuality in the context of their friendship. No matter what your sexuality is, you feel the longing each girl has for the other, yet you understand their hesitation and confusion, too. After all, many of us can probably remember our own awkward teenage moments of love, lust, and first crushes.

Meanwhile, both girls have realistic home struggles and families: Yolanda’s parents (Joaquin Garrido and Laura Patalano) want her to be the best possible student in order to secure a college education while Mari’s single-parent mother (Dulce Maria Solis) struggles to pay the rent, causing Mari to take on part-time work to help. Each household portrays the immigrant experience well – that these parents want their children to have a better life – and the actors are quite convincing.

The acting throughout the film is superb, a true testament to Guerrero. I have no doubt that both of the leads in particular, Pineda and Troncoso, will excel in their movie careers. It was not until the Q&A that I learned that Guerrero had cast primarily locals in the movie. She also said it was very important to her that the actors were bilingual. When you see the film, the realism of the parents primarily speaking Spanish to their children, for instance, you realize how much more the interchanging from Spanish to English brings to the essence of the story.

On top of which, the soundtrack is lively, full of songs you find yourself humming even after the credits end. Someone in the audience asked if it will be available. Guerrero revealed that she plans on compiling an album (check the website, http://mosquitaymari.com/,or movie’s Facebook page for updates!) – and also that the songs came from local artists around Huntington Park. Kudos to her for that as well as to Ryan Beveridge, who did the music.

For anyone who appreciates a well-done love story, Mosquita Y Mariis not to be missed.

As of February 7, Wolfe Releasing acquired “Mosquita Y Mari.” The Film Collaborative will release it in theaters this year, with Wolfe being responsible for VOD and DVD in 2013.