In the Heights is a musical/romance movie that was released in 2021, directed by Jon M. Chu, and features Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, Olga Merediz, Corey Hawkins, and more. The story is set in Washington Heights, New York, a small neighborhood united by love, community, and success; the film shows the realities of a struggling working-class life in the barrio. Every main character spotlighted in the film has their own little "sueñito," which means "little dream." The audience is taken to a beautiful whirlwind of emotional connections with every character’s background and story since each sueñito is empowering (a common theme throughout the film). Each character’s role, whether big or small, plays an immense part in showing that everyone’s dreams are different. The community’s dream, as a whole, becomes evident when someone wins $96,000 from the neighborhood bodega, Usnavi’s bodega. Although the lotto winner is not revealed until the end of the movie, all the characters fantasize about a host of possibilities they can do with their newfound fortune.

I thoroughly enjoyed how the directors showed the ultimate desire of the film’s characters to achieve something bigger than their current status in life. Almost all the characters in the story face financial debts in a close-knit neighborhood; and with the money they wish to acquire, they all possess different priorities on what they want to accomplish in life. A big takeaway I received from this film is that any dream that is meant for you can be achieved with patience and dedication. The ending of the movie, in which many of the characters achieve the dream they have worked so hard for, was inspiring to a teenager such as myself. Growing up can be challenging and confusing, but this film puts struggle in a new perspective. In the midst of your struggle, love can exist. Communities can thrive. You will never have to struggle alone. It has become one of my favorite feel-good movies that can be watched with others or just by yourself! Since the story takes place in the heat of summer, I especially prefer to enjoy this movie during summertime.

The film also tries to showcase the difficulties of following your dreams while balancing a romantic relationship. There are couples featured in the film that exemplify the hardships of a potential long-distance relationship, of being away from your partner in order to focus on your career. The romantic side of this film shows that love often coexists with personal struggles and hardships, especially when romance overwhelms the hardships one is already facing in daily life.

There are many characters in the film, and they form a strong bond and relationship with each other, one that resembles a family, which highlights the idea of family in one Latinx community. Everyone looks out for one another, whether it’s during a neighborhood blackout or when someone passes away. I recommend this movie to anyone. In the Heights is the kind of film I will never get tired of watching. It has gotten me through the loneliness and isolation of the pandemic. It has guided me towards the end of my high school years, helping me look forward to following my dreams, my very own “sueñito.” It has inspired my heart more than I can express and has taught me valuable lessons about the importance of growing up.

Review by: Regine Sto. Domingo

Regine is a teen volunteer at the Mid-Valley Regional Branch Library. Apart from being in student council and multiple clubs, she enjoys music-related activities, especially singing. Regine also loves summer, self-care, and pasta!

—Michael Baradi, Mid-Valley Regional Branch Library