“In the Heights” is a love letter to Washington Heights, the community and the stories that emerge from it.
While Usnavi is the film’s spar and narrates his events to In the Heights a group of children whom he calls dreamers, the film also focuses on the lives of those around him.
Nina (Leslie Grace) has finally left the neighborhood and into Stanford, but she is struggling to feel like she belongs to a world that she perpetually tells her that she is not.
Vanessa is doing her best to leave Washington Heights, pushing to live her own dream while she thinks the place she calls home is limiting her.
Sonny (Gregory Diaz) is planning his future after high school, but he’s not sure what that will look like considering his family.
Usnavi is trying to save every penny to go home, and by that, he means the Dominican Republic (Who doesn’t want to go back there?). And overseeing everything is Grandma Claudia, the woman who takes care of the neighborhood, her guardian, well, Grandma.
There are movies that make you feel special, with an air of familiarity that you sit down to watch it and you think you’re watching your story, it’s like a warm family hug.
“In the Heights” is the film adaptation of the musical of the same name by Lin Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes; With director Jon M. Chu behind the camera, the script adaptation of Alegría Hudes, and a cast full of incredible Latino talent, In the Heights is a special way of feeling heard, and most of all, respected.
And while on the surface it is about individuals, it really is about collective stories coming together in one place. So much so that this one, Washington Heights, becomes a character unto itself.
It is a place where people want to go, which people call home, a place that investors are gentrifying and that is slowly being lost.
It is a place worth preserving and fighting for. Places are places, but homes are people. Communities are the way we come together and shape our environment through adversity and our joy.
But the truth is that the magic of In the Heights comes from a phrase that Grandma Claudia said: “We had to affirm our dignity in small ways, small details that tell the world that we are not invisible.”
They are the memories we keep, the little flag we put on our car, the refusal to drink anything that is not a mabi, the way we pronounce the names of the streets, the way we love our brown skin when the world tells us that We should not.
Every little thing we do that values and celebrates who we are are acts of self-determination and defiance. Those little details, indeed, speak out loud.
“In the Heights” sheds light on an often overlooked film community.
There is a redefinition of the American dream, Hollywood almost always presents this utopia, from the Latin point of view, with struggle, suffering and deportation, when still, being a story of many, it is not the reality of all.
We often look for meaning and “home” elsewhere, but most of the time we look for our own backyard, or at least our own block.
Plus, In the Heights says it’s important to live in the present and appreciate those we love and the experiences we share, because if you’re too busy working toward a destination, you’ll miss out on all the little things to enjoy along the way.
Weaving the lives of all its characters, In the Heights is at its best lighthearted footage, but tackling some serious issues like our workplace culture, gentrification, immigration and equality in college education and a few more. In the Heights, it is a special experience that marks our return to theaters.