Blue Miracle, 2021.
Directed by Julio Quintana.
Starring Jimmy Gonzales, Dennis Quaid, Anthony Gonzalez, Bruce McGill, Raymond Cruz, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Fernanda Urrejola, Nathan Arenas, Chris Doubek, Isaac Arellanes, Frank Gallegos, Miguel Ángel García, Silverio Palacios, Steve Gutierrez, and Tom Clark.
To save their cash-strapped orphanage, a guardian and his kids partner with a washed-up boat captain for a chance to win a lucrative fishing competition.
Fishing inherently involves plenty of downtimes while exercising patience awaiting a hopeful big catch. At one point in Blue Miracle, director Julio Quintana (co-writing alongside Chris Dowling) uses that peace aboard the ship to explore the rough upbringing of the inexperienced orphans that suddenly find themselves a part of the Bisbee Black-and-Blue fishing tournament. Dennis Quaid’s washed-up former champion Wade starts off storytime, recalling a dangerous incident that almost saw him lose a leg to a Marlin. The young boys all find this excitingly larger-than-life, prompting them to talk about their scars, injuries that typically come from abuse.
And while none of these children particularly stand out as more intriguing than the others aside from the rebellious teenager of the bunch, the exchange suggests where a more involving experience could have come. Omar (Jimmy Gonzales, turning in a satisfactory performance evolving from good-intentioned condescension to someone more courageous and confident and honest with the reality of a given situation, becoming someone the orphans can look up to easier) runs Mexican boys home Casa Hogar (based on a true story, Omar and his wife Becca played by Fernanda Urrejola, have now expanded the orphanage to include girls), which has been plunged further into financial troubles due to Hurricane Odile.
Desperate for a way to stay afloat, Wayne Bisbee (Bruce McGill) strikes a deal with the aforementioned two-time champion and equally desperate Wade that he can participate despite not being a local as long as he’s accompanied by Omar and a small selection of the orphans. Reluctantly, Wade accepts as they plan to split the winnings 80/20. Omar is also hesitant, given his emotional baggage stemming from a traumatic childhood fishing incident that saw him tragically lose his father. Essentially, Omar needs to put on a brave face if he wants to save the orphanage while also demonstrating enough patience to deal with a selfish curmudgeon like Wade that abandoned his own son to continue sportfishing under the justification that notoriety trumps family values. Additionally, there is a subplot back at the orphanage with Tweety (one of the youngest boys, played by Steve Gutierrez) and another one butting heads on the ship with the stubborn Moco (Miguel Angel Garcia), who doesn’t see the point in accepting guardianship from an orphan father and refuses to be a team player.
It goes without saying that Blue Miracle has too much story for its own good (anything that shifts focus away from the orphans is misguided writing failing to realize the heart of the narrative), but even more baffling is that the character of Wade appears to be a fabrication. Now, there’s nothing wrong with adding material for dramatization. Still, in the back half, there are revelations and an arc for Wade that’s enough to question if this is an underdog sports movie about first-time Mexican fishers trying to save everything they know or a clichéd redemption story treading dangerously close to white savior territory.
With that said, there’s not much bad to say about Blue Miracle. Dennis Quaid is appropriately belligerent and mean-spirited to mask his failings as a father, but also not without the occasional moment of tenderness getting sucked into the joy the children feel learning how to fish. Likewise, Jimmy Gonzales shares a believable bond with the boys while growing to communicate life lessons better. His backstory is excessive and only exists to drive up suspense during the climax, which admittedly does work. The color palette is also moodier than your standard sports biopic, with the cinematography also capturing pretty seaside views and a relaxed fishing environment (at least until everyone starts fighting again).
There are certainly a couple of tropes on display here, but there’s also one aspect surrounding day three of the tournament that’s unexpected and compelling, where our protagonists have to ask themselves how badly they want to win. Other times, the tension and peril feel forced, but the last 30 or so minutes here develop both Omar and Wade in logical, thoughtful ways. It’s just a shame the orphans feel lost in what should be their movie, instead characterized by one or two traits each.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com