Strawberry and Chocolate (Fresa y Chocolate)
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David (Vladimir Cruz) has a lot to learn about life. His girlfriend has just left him and married someone else—and as he drowns his sorrows in a bowl of manly chocolate ice cream, he’s approached by Diego (Jorge Perugorria), who sits down and strikes up a conversation. Diego is indulging in a bowl of strawberry ice cream—and David just can’t understand why any man would choose strawberry when there’s chocolate available, too. But their taste in ice cream is only the beginning of their differences. David is a young Cuban communist who, despite his love of literature, is in college studying political science—because he believes it’s his duty to the Republic. Diego, on the other hand, is an individual—something that’s frowned upon in Cuba. He loves art, and he has a collection of banned books. He doesn’t conform to “the system”—and he also happens to be gay.

Though Diego is obviously attracted to David, David shuns his advances. But when David discovers that Diego is involved in an illegal art exhibit, David’s roommate encourages him to pretend to befriend Diego—in order to spy on his activities and report back to the appropriate officials.

As the two men spend more time together, they build a real friendship that overcomes their political and sexual differences. David also begins to build a relationship with Diego’s neighbor, Nancy (Mirta Ibarra), who, as a member of the Vigilance Committee, is supposed to report any un-Cuban behavior—though she maintains a strong friendship with Diego, anyway.

Fresa y Chocolate (or, in English, Strawberry and Chocolate) is a compelling yet light-hearted drama about love, friendship, and individuality. The story is well-written and believable, and the characters are realistic—and likeable. Cruz does a good job of portraying David, the homophobic, close-minded young communist, but the movie belongs to Perugorria, who’s magnificent as the flamboyant Diego.

My greatest complaint is about the opening scenes (and the ongoing subplot) with David’s ex-girlfriend. The movie’s first scenes are unnecessarily and graphically sexual—and the subplot adds little to the story. The ex-girlfriend scenes could have been removed, and no one would miss them.

Fresa y Chocolate is rather difficult to get into, but it’s worth seeing nonetheless. Be warned, however, that this isn’t a film for the subtitle-shy. It’s heavy on dialog, and it’s often difficult to keep up with the subtitles while trying to understand what’s going on. It’s not a brainless, pizza-and-beer kind of movie. It may have its share of light-hearted humor, but it’s definitely a drama—with plenty of politics thrown in. That said, however, if you’re not afraid of reading subtitles while thinking your way through a film, this one is well worth your time. You’ll be rewarded for your effort.

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