Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe, written and directed by Aitch Alberto, is a film about two queer Mexican boys who discover deep secrets within themselves over the course of a school year. The movie is an adaptation of Benjamin Alire Sáenz YA novel of the same name.
Aristotle “Ari” Mendoza (Max Pelayo) opens the film by introducing the audience to his family and life as a high school student. He’s not interested in being one of the cool kids and wants something more than a provincial life in 1985 New Mexico. A chance encounter with Dante (Reese Gonzales), a young man Ari meets at the local pool, leads to an intense connection between the two of them. Aristotle’s Father, Jamie (Eugenio Derbez), mopes about the house in a melancholic mood, which is why he’s closer to his Mother, Liliana (Veronica Falcon). She takes care of the family while his older, estranged Brother is serving heavy prison time.
Both the boys have identity issues, but Dante is the braver of the two and willing to express his feelings toward said issues out loud. Doubled with the fact that his race is always called into question because his Father Sam (Kevin Alejandro) is white, and his Mother Soledad (Eva Longoria) is Mexican, he feels he isn’t enough for anyone. Despite their differences, Aristotle and Dante develop a friendship that will transcend this Earthly plane, and open up the door to a universe of information about themselves and the world around them.
Aristotle and Dante ask heavy existential questions of its audience about life, identity, loyalty, righteousness, and how those principles connect to Mexican culture. Alberto isn’t breaking new ground as the film plays into the angst, closeted queer trope. However, it’s a relief to see parents in movies that don’t outright hate their children for being different. It may not be realistic, but it’s good to see this type of representation coming from the Latin community.
People can bring out the best or worst in each other, but good friendships are transformative. Feeling that level of comfort and amiability with someone you can trust can bring about some real honesty, which is what these two young men do for one another. They experience the highs, lows, and rock bottoms of their individual journeys, but because their bond is so strong, these two meet in the middle anyway. Alberto’s story is less about coming out and more about standing in your truth, whatever that may be. If you’re queer, take pride in it, despite what the haters think. Your friends will always have your back and pick you up off the floor when the sliver of doubt sets in.
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