Sugar is the inspirational story of Miguel Santos, a gifted pitcher struggling to make it to the big leagues of American baseball. Nicknamed "Azúcar" (Spanish for "sugar"), 19-year-old Miguel travels from his poor but tightly-knit community in the Dominican Republic to play minor league baseball in the United States - where anything is possible. He finds himself in a small Iowa town, where he struggles with the culture, the language, and the pressure of knowing that only his success can rescue his family.
An astute if low-key drama from the creative team behind Half Nelson
is an engrossing story about a young Dominican man who comes to the U.S. to play baseball, only to find himself pursuing a different destiny. Algenis Perez Soto plays Miguel, also known as "Sugar" because of his sweet appeal to girls. A dedicated ballplayer in the Dominican Republic, Miguel's family pins its hopes on his future success as a pitcher for a major league team. Miguel is recruited by a Kansas City club and sent to a farm team in Iowa. There, he makes a huge impression until injuring an ankle, after which his confidence is rattled and things go from bad to worse on the field.
Directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden shoot some excellent baseball action footage, including a magnificent shot that begins with Miguel on the pitcher's mound in silent prayer, then gradually opening to the fullness and energy of a ballpark just before an opening pitch. The story, however, is just as much about not playing baseball, about discovering life after old goals are more or less within reach. Throughout Miguel's highs and lows, we see him adapt, in dozens of small ways, to a new country--turning American, really. Sugar's final act unexpectedly shifts the action to a very different but logical locale. There, we witness Miguel making a different set of choices than the ones he always thought he wanted--becoming a whole person, with losses as well as gains, in the process. --Tom Keogh
Stills from Sugar (Click for larger image)