- To the Other Side (2004) movie review: Divided into three segments, each focused on one child intent on reaching a land far away from their own, Gustavo Loza’s well-intentioned immigration drama is marred by excessive sentimentality.
To the Other Side movie review: Sentimental handling mars well-intentioned drama about child migrants
Screenwriter-director Gustavo Loza’s 2004 drama To the Other Side / Al otro lado, which opened commercially in its native Mexico the following year, tells the interspersed stories of three children – one Mexican, one Cuban, one Moroccan – whose fathers have crossed over.
No, not to the Great Beyond, but somewhere almost as mysterious and alien: The wealthy (or at least wealthier) lands north of the Rio Grande and the Mediterranean Sea.
Three perilous journeys
In one segment, a Mexican boy (Adrian Alonso) wants to celebrate his ninth birthday with his father, now living in the United States.
In another, a Cuban boy (Jorge Milo), whose mother (Susana González) may be a sex worker, is eager to finally meet his alleged father, who is also supposed to be living in the U.S.
In the third one, a little girl (Nuria Badih) runs away from home so she can be reunited with her father (Naoufal Azzouz) in Spain; instead, she’s snatched by human traffickers.
Moroccan segment stands out
Notwithstanding the filmmaker’s undeniable good intentions, Loza’s handling of the material is problematic. In fact, To the Other Side would have worked better had it focused on one particular story, preferably the Moroccan one – the least maudlin and most well-rounded of the three. Unsurprisingly, it happens to be the most touching as well.
Also of note in the Moroccan-Spanish segment, former Pedro Almodóvar muse Carmen Maura (Law of Desire, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) makes a brief but memorable appearance as the leader of a teen-prostitution ring who discovers within herself unsuspected feelings of compassion.
To the Other Side / Al otro lado (2004)
Direction & Screenplay: Gustavo Loza.
Cast: Carmen Maura. Adrian Alonso. Jorge Milo. Nuria Badih. Naoufal Azzouz. Susana González. Julián Villagrán. Vanessa Bauche. Manolo Caro.
“To the Other Side Movie (2004) Review” endnotes
To the Other Side was Mexico’s submission for the 2006 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Despite its socially conscious sentimentality and focus on the problems of little boys, it failed to land a nomination.
Carmen Maura To the Other Side / Al otro lado image: Distribuidora de Entretenimiento de Cine.
“To the Other Side: Sentimentality Mars Immigration Drama” last updated in September 2021.