⋆⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: Unrated; in English and subtitled Spanish.
It’s tempting to frame the career of social justice pioneer Dolores Huerta in the context of her partnership with Cesar Chavez, with whom she founded the United Farm Workers of America. Tempting, but wrong, as is argued in “Dolores,” a documentary that spotlights her central role in the fight for workers’ rights.
Despite being a 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, Huerta’s contributions in grass-roots organizing have remained something of a footnote. But with this kaleidoscopic retrospective of her life and career, filmmaker Peter Bratt underscores her vital contributions, placing them on a par with those of other, better known champions of the worker.
The film illustrates Huerta’s life with archival and contemporary footage, supplemented by peer testimonials and the recollections of family members. Woven together, these threads form a compelling portrait: Growing up among Latino farmhands in Central California, Huerta developed a social conscience early, fighting for workers’ rights even at the expense of personal relationships. Her children talk about the negative impact of her long absences — although they also say that she inspired them to take up social justice careers of their own.
At 87, Huerta still has an infectious energy — energy that changed the lives of the “worst paid workers on the planet,” as one of the film’s subjects describes farm laborers. But her influence goes well beyond that, as evidenced by Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem and others, who note that Huerta made it acceptable for women to join picket lines, to demonstrate and, more generally, to make their voices heard. The film is educational, to be sure, but also exhilarating, inspiring and deeply emotional.
Lora Grady, Washington Post
Year by the Sea
⋆⋆ out of four stars
If you weren’t able to squeeze in one last getaway this summer, the lovely postcard views of Cape Cod that decorate “Year by the Sea” might offer some vicarious visual respite. To enjoy the island scenery, however, you’ll have to wade, ankle-deep, into one of those tales of late life self-discovery, female variety.
Like “Under the Tuscan Sun” and “Eat Pray Love,” this fictionalized drama is based on a real-life travelogue/spiritual journey bestseller (in this case, by author Joan Anderson). In the role of Joan, a 60-ish empty-nester who takes off on her own after her husband fails to tell her that they are moving from New York to Kansas, is the lately too little seen Karen Allen. She of the inviting smile and fetching freckles does much to add warmth and buoyancy to the predictable plot.
From the dashing fisherman who comes to Joan’s aid (Yannick Bisson of TV’s “Murdoch Mysteries”) to the free spirit who befriends her (Celia Imrie of the “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”), Joan’s encounters are mainly of the pleasant kind. Melodrama briefly flares as our heroine intervenes when a local shopkeeper is abused by her alcoholic beau. But instead of a hearty chowder of emotional highs and lows, first-time director Alexander Janko, who also adapted the script, settles for a diluted, canned-soup version of getting one’s groove back.
Susan Wloszczyna, Washington Post