The sports film genre is a dangerously tricky one. Any sport can provide a great, heart-wrenching tale if you look hard enough. But when it comes to capturing that story on film, it is very easy for the story to fall victim to severe melodrama, or simply be too complicated to be told well. The film in question, Sugar, delivers a solid story that falls just short of being captivating.
Sugar is the story of Dominican baseball player Miguel Santos (Algenis Perez Soto), a pitcher with a nasty curve and, later, a filthy knuckle curve. His family comes from the poverty-stricken streets of the Dominican. Baseball is the way out for the younger males in the area.
So much so, in fact, that Santos’ mother and family constantly ask if he has gotten the call to head out to the United States. When we meet him, Santos is part of the Kansas City Knights Baseball Academy. He develops his pitches – namely that knuckle curve – and eventually gets the long-awaited call to the spring training facility for the Knights.
From there on out, the story follows Santos going through the grueling motions of minor-league baseball. As a baseball film, it does a good job of both explaining and showing the process of moving up through the leagues (for those who do not know, there are multiple levels of minor-league ball that players move through to reach the major leagues; a vast majority do not make it).
And as a film about this person, Santos, it does a fine job showing his struggles. You are there to see him find his flow and mow down the opposing batters. You are also there to see him leave his friends and family to achieve his dream of playing in the big leagues, and losing his new friends along the way.
But as this goes on, the film feels too much like a film. You are able to get a feel for him and some of the other characters, especially when he is unable to communicate in English with those he would love to get closer with. However, it does not delve deep enough. Sugar doesn’t leave Santos’ story on surface levels- it goes beyond that but just not far enough.Sugar delivers where it needs to and is making its way out of indie-film obscurity.
Although the film lacks some of the emotional depth that could have been developed, it is still a solid story. If you’re a fan of the game, it is worth the time if you want a good sports story. Even if you are not, it can be enjoyable. Sugar is simply just missing that little extra to push it over the edge to being a must-see.