Haitian-American filmmaker Monica Sorelle makes an impressive narrative feature debut with "Mountains," a soft yet poignant look into the lives of one immigrant family in Miami's Little Haiti. Premiering at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival, the film unfolded its poetic narrative — inspired by Sorelle's own upbringing in Florida — and it mingled wonderfully with Atibon Nazaire's quietly searing performance as Xavier, a middle-aged Haitian demolition worker trapped within his insistent community-destroying cycle of gentrification.

Sheila Anozier personifies this potential wife through his oppressed wife, Esperance. She fills the character with a glowing warmth that pairs nicely against Nazaire, showing struggle, familial bonds, and hopeful love. The college dropout son Junior (Chris Renois) works through the cultural and generational divides that follow his secret aspiration to become a stand-up comic, portraying a lost generation of youth trapped between traditional dictates and the quest for self-expression.

This is hyper-realism at its best, and Monica Sorelle directed 'Mountains' to perfection, catching those little beats of life—kitchen conversations, marital intimacies, communal fiesta—that hold neighbourhoods together. Through the eyes of Xavier, Deulofeu eloquently ages and intoxicates Little Haiti; the once picturesque structures of decay frame a well-known narrative both through the social landscape and character perspective.

This film delves into the racial geography of Miami, the eternal construction and reconstruction processes in motion, and leaving a mark on a system that hardly ever accounts for us. In addition, Mountains examines the rift between immigrant parents and their children and the bicultural dichotomy of sacrifice vs. responsibility, Sorelle shared. 'Mountains' goes deeper into themes of self-discovery and chasing the dream—beyond gentrification.

Naturally, it embodies the paradox of Xavier's occupation—simultaneously serving as the way out and building bars just beyond his reach. Through the evolving landscapes, Sorelle captures a Miami with more faces than we usually see on screen: equal parts shimmering coastlines and intimate looks beyond them at its people's lives, symbols, and psychology.

With 'Mountains', she marked her presence at TIFF with a masterful fusion of cine that invokes the best works of social realists while demonstrating Sorelle's skill and aptitude as a filmmaker worth keeping an eye out for. Backed by great performances and a script sewn in with the cultural fabric of its setting, 'Mountains' isn't just another film -- it's an experience; it stands as an homage to immigrant families who fight against the relentless tide of change.

Running a tight 95 minutes, 'Mountains' paints an austere picture of one family's resilience against the homogenizing wave of gentrification and their little victories along the way. It is a film that requires the ear of everyone who sees it, though; something that goes beyond the silver screen and focuses mainly on capturing one's city when it needs its eyes over all else.

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