Title: In the Heights
Released: 2021

Fix: Musicals, Latin American Culture, New York, Small Businesses, Immigrant Stories, Family
Platform: Netflix

Netflix Summary: 

Fueled by music and café con leche, a bodega owner and his tight-knit crew of regulars chase dreams and face challenges in NYC’s Washington Heights.

FYA Summary:

Dominican immigrant Usnavi (named after a U.S. Navy ship) has dreamed of leaving New York and moving back to his birthplace since he was a child. In the meantime, he runs the neighborhood corner store and looks after his grandmother and cousin. When the store sells a winning lottery ticket, however, followed by a city-wide power outage and a rising protest movement to change immigration laws and prevent gentrification, the entire neighborhood’s hopes and fears are put to the test.

Familiar Faces:

Anthony Ramos as Usnavi

This role was originally played by Lin-Manuel Miranda himself, in the Broadway musical he wrote on which this movie is based. Ramos played Laurens and Philip in Hamilton, making him a trusted co-star of Miranda’s; his rapid-fire rap, boyish charm and emotional depth make him a more than worthy successor.

Lin-Manuel Miranda as the Piraguero

The Piraguero – a man who sells piragua, shaved ice with fruit syrup, from a pushcart – is the voice of Washington Heights, which makes it the perfect role for the composer and producer of this movie. Chanting his sales pitch, cheerfully defying his competitor and encouraging everyone to “keep scraping by”, the Piraguero makes it all come together.

Olga Merediz as Abuela Claudia

Olga Merediz, who voiced Alma Madrigal in Encanto, plays an equally powerful role as the woman who raised Usnavi after his parents died. Miranda devotes a magnificent, heart-wrenching solo number to the character of this retired Cuban housemaid, telling her life story with dignity and respect. Merediz’ performance of “Paciencia Y Fe” makes me crumple up tissues every time I hear it.

Couch-Sharing Capability: Call the Crew

The first time I saw this movie was in the cinema in 2021, the first time I went there since lockdown. The full screen and high volume were exhilarating. Watching at home isn’t quite the same, but I’d still advise watching it with a lively group, with the subtitles on so everyone can follow the rapid lyrics, and plenty of room in case someone wants to get up and dance.

Recommended Drink: Café con leche

… Or if you’re not a coffee person, something else invigorating and comforting at the same time. You’ll need to be alert enough to discuss the important social issues that are addressed in this movie, but also relaxed enough to laugh and cry and bop along to the amazing soundtrack.

Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Excellent

Lin-Manuel Miranda is good for the soul. He’s one of the few creators I know who inspires optimism without sugar-coating a problem. The cinematography supports his vision, adding flashes of magical realism that make an ordinary neighborhood extraordinary. “The streets were made of music,” Usnavi tells the neighborhood children in his opening monologue, and it’s true: a drain cover sounds like a record scratch, and gravity shifts sideways to allow young lovers to dance up the fire escape of a brownstone building. Miranda clearly loves the place where he grew up, and he makes his audience love it too. 

Regina Peters works in the video game industry, but her favourite imaginary worlds are on paper. She lives in Montreal, Canada, with her family.