Tuesday, November 3, 2015
With the plaintive ballad that bookends Sand Dollars, bachata singer Ramón Cordero could be speaking for seventy-something Anne (Geraldine Chaplin). She's fallen for a young Dominican girl, Noeli (Yanet Mojica), who makes her living from the gifts and tips she gleans from tourists like Anne, engaging in a less overtly mercenary version of the “girlfriend experience.” As Anne wanders the streets of Las Terrenas, a Dominican seaside resort town, pining for her elusive love, Cordero croons: “I live in grief because I don't see you here.” Meanwhile, Noeli and her boyfriend, Menor (Ricardo Ariel Toribio), suffer the pain of another kind of thwarted love, more often triggered by seeing than by missing one another: Any time they run into each other in their favorite nightclub, Noeli is almost sure to be with one of her meal tickets, around whom the two pretend to be brother and sister.
Like Heading South, a similar story of sexual tourism in Haiti, the quietly touching Sand Dollars respects and plumbs the feelings of all three main characters while surfacing the economic, ethnic, cultural, and gender power imbalances in their relationships. Noeli could easily have been made to seem either predatory or victimized, but the film depicts a more complicated reality. Read the rest in Slant Magazine