With all the commentary and activism regarding race relations in society and the arts filling conversations last month, it’s fitting one of the most diverse casts to come out this summer online and in selected theaters doesn’t specifically focus on race as a political theme. Instead, it’s more about relationships between family and friends.
Sergio Navaretta’s “The Cuban” is little bit of an updated “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989). Only this time, instead of a white elderly lady and black middle-aged man, it’s an elderly black Cuban (played by Louis Gossett, Jr.) and a young Afghan-Canadian young lady (Ana Golja).
And instead of the younger of the pair driving the older person around, the woman is a pre-med nurse at the nursing home where the Cuban is residing.
Golja’s Mina is a 20-something living with her Aunt Bano (Shohreh Aghdashloo), a former doctor, while working her way up to a physician career. She does well at the local nursing home when she meets Luis (Gossett, Jr.), whom she discovers is a once-famous Cuban guitarist with dementia and apparent unhappiness with his current situation.
Mina quickly learns that reminders of his homeland and youth in Cuba put him in better moods and help improve his memory. Soon, she secretly begins bringing Luis homemade food and vintage records from Cuba to improve his health — as well as learn the backstory of his life and predicament.
“The Cuban” is a fine family-appropriate dramedy with plenty of heart and warmth for fans of feel-good movies. There’s drama, but it’s not too intense, romance that isn’t out of place or graphic, and it feels like both the cast and crew had a good time filming the story.
One thing I did like about the characters is that Mina’s love interest, played by Giacomo Gianiotti, is arguably better looking than her — yet the film treats the pairing as if it’s nothing out of the ordinary and not a big deal, which is refreshing. For a modest, enjoyable drama, “The Cuban” might be intriguing to those looking for something a little different.