Cine Las Americas 18 Review: DOLARES DE ARENA/SAND DOLLARS

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

From writer/directors Israel Cardenas and Laura Amelia Guzman comes this melancholy commentary on life in the Dominican Republic.  This particular tale focuses on Noeli (Yanet Mojica), a Dominican native who, with her boyfriend (Ricardo Ariel Toribio), attempt to scrape out a living by any means necessary and often by scamming the wealthy tourists who visit the beautiful beaches of Las Terrenas.  Noeli has become involved with an older European retiree (Geraldine Chaplin) who willingly lavishes her with gifts and money whenever Noeli asks.  In the beginning, Noeli only had intentions of using her lover, but as they spend more time together, complicated feelings develop.

This haunting romantic tale offers a astute examination of the vast difference between the wealthy and poor in the Dominican Republic.  Cardenas and Guzman have made a sharply written and directed film about the struggles of the poor and the desperation that drives them to do anything to survive.  Noeli’s story may not be the most shocking or disturbing.  In fact, her experience, compared to what some prostitutes experience, is comfortable and enjoyable to a certain extent.  Still, the fact that she feels that she must exploit herself in some capacity is a bit unnerving.  On the other hand, I empathize with Geraldine Chaplin’s character who is portrayed as a sad and lonely person who finds joy and a romantic connection in Noeli.  Cardenas and Guzman have succeeded in creating a mostly well-rounded and dimensional movie that will definitely have an impact on the hearts of their audiences.

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