Gringa – Shoots and misses

“Nobody surfs the first day. Takes a lifetime.”

There are lots of things that take a lifetime. But in Gringa, from directors Marny Eng and E. J. Foerster, change in characters’ lives seems to happen almost overnight. That makes for a film that oversimplifies almost everything and never manages to find any depth.

Marge (Jess Gabor) has been raised by her single mom who strives to find success as a realtor by sleeping with potential clients. Marge is on the local soccer team, but is hated by her teammates because she is not very good. When she finally gets into a game, she quickly scores an own goal.

When her mother is suddenly killed in an auto accident, Marge decides to head to a small town in Mexico to find her father Jackson (Steve Zahn), a one-time soccer star. Jackson is part-time soccer coach for the local girls’ team, part-time surf bum, and full-time town drunk. Fatherhood is not something that is in his skill set. But predicably, he and Marge help each other find new paths for their lives. Marge finds a place in the soccer team and they go on to play a big match against Marge’s former team. However, there will also be a time when Jackson will fail and then have to redeem himself to finally win Marge’s love.

The film tries at time to offer bits of wisdom (like the surfing comment above), but never finds real traction. It also tries to delve into some religious ideas. For example, in the early soccer match, before she scores on her own team, we hear her thoughts. I’d already given God a few chances…. This was his last shot.” Then, “God blew it again.” I’d have loved to see that sentiment unpacked a bit, but it never happens.

Likewise, Jackson and the town priest (who coaches with him) have an ongoing discussion of the priest constantly looking for miracles that Jackson won’t accept. That too could have usefully brought some depth to some of the issues in the film. Questions of sobriety, and love, and trustworthiness would have opened up a bit if the characters could have given voice to the difficulties they had with faith. The growth we see in the characters is always too easy. Life, like surfing, doesn’t just happen quickly or easily.

Gringa is in theaters and available on VOD.

Photos courtesy of Gravitas Ventures.

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