“‘Sugar,’ which follows a young pitcher from a training camp in the Dominican Republic to a minor-league club in Iowa (and beyond), is infused with a deep affection for baseball, the rhythms of which are nimbly captured by a narrative pace and editing style that quicken and relax as necessary,” writes the New York Times’ A.O. Scott in his rave review for Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s (“Half Nelson”) film, which gets its DVD release this week courtesy of Sony. “The small details and rituals of the game — the locker room banter, the on-field surges of intensity and the tedium of the dugout — are captured with subtlety and without egg-headed, glorious-pastime sententiousness.”
“Sugar’ isn’t filled with melodramatic developments and a hard landing on U.S. soil,” writes Roger Ebert. “Baseball seems, in fact, a friendly if realistic destination, an income where there was none before. If very few players ever make it into a Major League starting lineup, well, they know that going in. What’s special about the film — and this is a very special film — is how closely it observes the emotional uncertainties of a stranger in a strange land, not speaking the language, not knowing the customs, beset with homesickness and the dread of disappointing his family.”
The A.V. Club’s Nathan Rabin notes that “The drama wanders so far from the conventions of sports flicks that it ultimately isn’t a baseball movie at all, but rather an empathetic, evocative exploration of the immigrant experience that just happens to be about the low-key travails of a minor-league baseball player. Instead of hitting all the usual beats, ‘Sugar’ just moseys in a mostly delightful way.”
“‘Sugar,’ while certainly diamond-specific, is less about America’s pastime than the fallacies of the American dream,” writes Melissa Anderson for the Village Voice. “Without a trace of didacticism, Boden and Fleck portray the insidious details of exploitation and hollow American maxims.”
The LA Times’ Kenneth Turan: “Though ‘Sugar’ takes place in a setting we haven’t seen before, the world of aspiring young players from the Dominican Republic trying to make it in the major leagues, it would be a mistake to think of it as a sports movie. It’s a beautifully made film about a young man’s journey of self-discovery, about how Miguel ‘Sugar’ Santos makes his way in the world and tries to figure out, as we all do, who he is meant to be.”
“The film’s drama is never overstated; Boden and Fleck prefer quiet moments of introspection and psychological change rather than any outward breakdowns or breakthroughs,” observes Anthony Kaufman in his review for indieWIRE. “This makes ‘Sugar’ just as smart and sensitively played as ‘Half Nelson,’ if not more so with its totally unexpected and intelligent third act. In a storytelling move that is as bold as it is believable, Fleck and Boden get to have their baseball movie—with its suspenseful scenes of Sugar on the mound, trying to pick the right pitch to strike out the opposing batters—and subvert it, too.”
“Anyone who’s seen Ryan Fleck’s brilliant ‘Half Nelson’ (2006) can attest to the Brooklyn filmmaker’s ability to locate a humanistic pulse within warhorse material. Yet the way that Fleck and his writing-directing partner, Anna Boden, turn this low-key character study into something so epiphanic and ecstatic is absolutely miraculous,” concludes David Fear in Time Out.
Listen to an interview with Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck on NPR.
Watch the trailer for “Sugar” on YouTube.