In the indie drama “Marisol,” the aspirations of a young woman are upended by an accident, personal fears, and the hostility of an enraged young man, providing a poignant glimpse into the anxiety and instability faced by undocumented immigrants.
Esmeralda Camargo, a newcomer, delivers a mesmerizing performance as Marisol. Her expressive countenance conveys the character’s every ounce of uncertainty, apprehension, and heartbreak. Her portrayal earned her the 2022 Breakthrough Performance Award from the Twin Cities Film Fest.
However, the film’s success doesn’t solely rest on Camargo’s shoulders. It resonates with heartfelt emotion thanks to Claire Audrey Aguayo’s script, a solid ensemble cast, and the intimate direction of Kevin Abrams (known for the documentary “I Got a Monster”).
The story follows Marisol as she begins her day before sunrise by tending to a horse and cleaning its stall. Afterward, she heads to high school, navigating the strip malls of a small Texas town on her bicycle. She returns home to her aunt Carmen (Liana Mendoza) and cousin Jaime (Max Pelayo) for breakfast. In her pastel-hued room, Marisol’s joy is palpable as she learns about a scholarship just in time for an upcoming college interview.
Later that evening at a party, Justin (Theo Taplitz), a White classmate, awkwardly flirts with Marisol. Seeking to project toughness in an unwelcome environment, he ends up injured, blames Marisol, and threatens her with deportation. He even reports her to a responding police officer, Hector Ramirez (Ricky Catter).
Shaken, Marisol contacts Carmen, who advises her not to talk to the police and to remain away from the only home she knows until things settle down. A shot captures Marisol’s prolonged contemplation, as Camargo skillfully portrays her processing the information, piecing together the situation, and shedding tears as her dreams of college slip away. “You said I was born here,” she laments.
Carmen, who possesses a work visa, has an attorney who encourages Marisol to apply for the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). This program, initiated in 2012, aimed to shield individuals who arrived in the U.S. as undocumented immigrants as children, permitting them to seek a Social Security number, work permit, and driver’s license. The film doesn’t delve into why Carmen didn’t pursue this avenue or inform Marisol of her immigration status. Instead of feeling like plot gaps, these omissions engender empathy for Marisol’s perspective.
Distraught, Marisol returns to the stable where she works. The horse’s owner arranges for her to leave the state, despite her objections, as she finds herself part of an underground network for immigrants. Her journey introduces her to kind-hearted individuals offering aid, but the cinematography by Andre Lascaris juxtaposes moments of safety with lurking danger, emphasizing her precarious situation.
Simultaneously, Justin seeks affirmation from the “build that wall” contingent online, and Ramirez strives to gain Carmen’s trust while grappling with immigration authorities, attempting to manage the escalating situation spurred by Justin’s actions and Marisol’s escape.
“Marisol” sustains a palpable tension that remains credible until an open-ended conclusion that might leave viewers with a sense of frustration. Nevertheless, as a character, Marisol resonates due to Camargo’s performance, the filmmakers’ efforts, and the compassionate portrayal of a dreamer grappling with an uncertain future.