Movies · Reviews

Sundance Review: ‘Sugar’ Can’t Survive on Heart Alone

From the directors of ‘Half Nelson’ comes a slowly paced drama about a Dominican baseball player coming to America.
By  · Published on January 25th, 2008

So far the Sundance Film Festival has delivered a lot of great films along with a few duds, but for the most part they have all at least been short. It seems as if 90% of the films have been right around 90 minutes long, and any of the ones that were longer didn’t feel longer. Thus, it has been an enjoyable experience — until now.

Sugar, the sophomore effort of directing team Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson) was one of those movies in which you feel every single agonizing minute of its 120 minute running time. It is the story of a promising young baseball player from the Dominican Republic (Algenis Perez Soto) and his journey to the United States in hopes of making it to the major league. Speaking very little english, “Sugar” must fight his way through the culturally awkward midwest, injuries and the pressures of being a highly touted pitching prospect. But when the pressure becomes too much and Sugar loses his way, he escapes to New York to find his place in the world.

It is a story that packs a lot of heart, as it is a story of dealing with immensely difficult circumstances and provides great insight as to what it is like for baseball prospects to come to America. Therefore, it will certainly win over the hearts and minds of some audience members. The problem is that it is incredibly tedious and at some point very uneventful.

But despite its very slow delivery, the film is very well made. It is beautifully shot and very well acted. Writer/Director team Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have a talent for creating rich, engaging characters that are based very much in reality. But as I said before, it just takes them a while to get there. I would recommend this to anyone who loves a good overcoming obstacles movie or a solid sports flick — but only if you have a great deal of patience.

Grade: C+

Keep an eye on our Sundance 2008 Homepage for more from Park City.

Related Topics:

Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)