WASHINGTON HEIGHTS highlights the struggles and dreams of Cuban-Americans living in this Latino-Caribbean flavored neighborhood in New York City. It is a slice of life story that seems genuine and sincere. Only a contrived death scene in the third act betrays the honesty of this story’s script. Still, a fine ensemble cast embodies these blue-collar characters. As a result, there is more real-life drama and angst in any ten minutes of WASHINGTON HEIGHTS than in several summer action flicks combined.
The story centers on Carlos, a man in the Heights with a talent for drawing comic books who must first learn some valuable lessons about life and community. Like so many others living in WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Carlos dreams of making it big and escaping his humble immigrant roots. Carlos lives with his girlfriend, Maggie, who also dreams of a better relationship and a future with him. Carlos struggles to balance his own passions and interests with those of his friends and family.
Carlos’ father runs a corner store in the Heights and understands the value of community, loyalty and relationships, something his son does not share. He is shot and paralyzed by a deranged robber, however, so Carlos must return home to help his father recover and the family business stay afloat. While their relationship is strained, to say the least, it is touching to watch the independent young son begin to care more about his gruff and disapproving father.
During his first night back home, Carlos must deal with changing his father’s diaper. Through the tension and embarrassment experienced by both men, the built up walls of anger and disappointment slowly begin to crumble. As a result of his newfound responsibilities, Carlos is forced to set his own plans aside temporarily and his selfish nature finds a new level of maturity.
As the story progresses, WASHINGTON HEIGHTS reveals the hopes and dreams of the other people in Carlos’ life. His father wants him to give up his foolish drawing pursuits and settle for running the family business. His best friend, Mickey, dreams of winning a bowling tournament in Las Vegas. Even Maggie’s ex-con brother, Angel, a hard and dangerous man, dreams of raising enough cash to buy a farm in the country. Life’s hopes and dreams, whether realized or not, propel people through life and that is the real message of WASHINGTON HEIGHTS.
Unfortunately, hopes and dreams have a way of consuming our lives and their very pursuit offers little eternal value to the soul. WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, sadly, is true to life in that most people do, in fact, pursue relationships, position and power. The movie fails to point out that these in themselves are empty without Christ.
The New Testament cuts to the heart of this issue when it asks the following question: “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Life is short… and then you die, but God offers love, forgiveness and fulfillment that far surpass earthly pleasures and plans.
WASHINGTON HEIGHTS also contains excessive foul language and some sexual content.
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(HH, B, LLL, VV, SS, N, A, DD, M) Humanist worldview about Cuban immigrants pursuing their dreams, as well as man prays after serious accident, but then comments that his dead wife is “listening,” so it’s not clear who he was praying to, and two people remark “God bless you”; 112 obscenities (with 75 “f” words), one profanity, and woman urinates in bathroom sink; strong violence includes one fight scene, robbery where shop owner is shot and paralyzed, and one stabbing scene with some blood shown; sexual themes include father using prostitutes, talking about years of infidelity in his marriage, brief nudity and mostly clothed sex scenes, and couple live together, kissing, other couples talk of promiscuity; some brief nudity in drawings and woman seen sitting on toilet; alcohol use; smoking and some drug use; and, stealing rebuked and money returned.