Raising Victor Vargas

New York can be an intimidating place. The story of Victor Vargas unfolds on the lower east side in an Dominican Republican household headed up by a grandmother trying to raise two sons, and a daughter. The movie opens up in a pretty neat way. Victor is staring directly into the Camera. As the camera pans back - we see he's in a girls bedroom.. 'Fat Donna'. His friend, from the street below - breaks their reverie by calling through the open window and he sticks his head out - shocked to see his sister look up at him from the window in the apartment below. She says "You're fucking Fat Donna?". His sister, then proceeds to call everyone she knows.

To cover up the neighborhood embarassment of being the one who dated the fat chick - Victor Vargas tries to date the prettiest girl on the block. Its about respect. His first advance, her friend waves in the air in front of them - she doesn't talk back to him at all - and she says .."Can't you see the wall of isolation here?".. Judy tells him she's already got a man.

Then on the second pass, later on - Judy decides shes tired of walking down the road and having guys walk up to her and telling her things like "Hi, I'm a director.. this is my friend here" .. "Ola Chica, They call me Double Penetration". So she keeps him around. Being a guy, I actually think she keeps him around because she might like him..

When her friend asks her about her relationship with Victor, she replies .."Just think of him as Bug Spray". He friend falls for Victor's best friend and eventually he tells him the secret. But as a guy, I had to stop and go... wow... she's.. omg. Damn! Thats cold!

The grandmother is adorable. Her english is halting and simple - and she only wants her children to grow up well. Catching her youngest in the act of masturbation, she decides the best option is to blame Victor - a womanizer - and throw him out of the family. Meanwhile, Victor discovers that Judy is just using him. He returns home to find his grandmother had packed his clothes up in a bag. Together they walk to the police station where in halting English, she asks them to take her son. "I cannot do anything with him. He's bad influence"

The woman at the police station calmly explain that child abandonment is a crime. Victor walks home with them, and sleeps hard. He wakes in the morning to find his brother holding him and refusing to let him leave. He reluctantly apologizes and, she allows him to stay. They go to Mass, and the Grandmother promises a good dinner the next night.

The language is coarse, and the situations are claustrophobically shot against the backdrop of the Lower East Side. Chickens run around in abandoned yards. Rooms are suffused with the warm glow of red bedsheets draped against the window. Coin operated prayer candles flicker on against the throw of a switch.

Victor gathers the courage to invite Judy to this dinner - but she's not sure. Victor, after all, is a boy. And she doesn't trust boys. About this time she learns that her best friend, with whom she'd made a pact not to see any boys - has been dating Victors best friend. "Why didn't you tell me about this?" she asks... "Because I know you. I know you wouldn't want me to be happy".

She shows up at the door, in a red dress that could stop time. During the dinner - Grandmother figures out that she'd visited Victor before, and accuses her of lying - and then explains to everyone at the table - what her youngest had been doing in the bathroom. Embarassed, she leaves - and Victor rises up to follow her. His grandmother says "If you go out that door, don't come back. I will change the locks." ... "I am all you have". Victor replies.. "Nosotros. Mama. We are all you have." and leaves to be with her.

She meets him on the street, and then guides him into a kind of clubhouse nearby and explains that she's never been with any boy before. They kiss, and fall asleep together.

He returns to his grandmother's home. Where he unlocks the phone. And he makes breakfast for his grandmother. And they enjoy a moment together.

Without Judy, Victor would be caught in a cycle. And despite his grandmothers assertion - Judy is in fact the reason why Victor grows up. His grandmother knows it. As his relationship with Judy grows, so too does Victor. And in that relationship the right pieces of a young life fall into place.

They say , about teenage sex - that everyone talks about it, but nobody is doing it and for those who are doing it, they're probably not doing it right. But for a circle of friends on the lower east side, maybe. They are.