De Lo Mio is an affecting story about familial bonds, abandonment and the rekindling of culture after a distance apart.  Its director, Diana Peralta, is a Dominican-American filmmaker whose homeland is examined as she weaves a story about two sisters from N.Y.C. and their estranged brother in the DR. Strained pains and truths come to light as they’re reacquainted in their stay, but it carefully sits back as Peralta’s story about family and memory deliver it home in a sweeping warm embrace.

Rita and Carolina come to find out their experience parting from the motherland meant that their half brother (Dante Héctor Aníbal) stayed back and grew with it opposite to their city life. He was raised by their grandparents and the passing of grandmother leaves him with house maintenance duties as the property is listed to be demolished. Sisters Rita (Sasha Merci) and Carolina (Darlene Demorizi) moved from the Dominican Republic to N.Y.C. and experienced the American life while their brother looked after things back at home and raised a kid of his own. He’s been cleaning up and maintaining their grandmother’s household, the last piece of family history that connected them to the country. The siblings were more or less ripped apart from distance and separation but they’re carefully joined again by way of their country and seeing pieces of their family in every photo, article of clothing and timeless song.

Rita and Carolina are almost always in sync, except that they’re also two separately charming characters. Rita is more the responsibly accountable of the two, getting straight to the point and making sure everyone is taken care of. Carolina is the shining free spirit and the first to make a joke or break a silence with her smile. They’re very much sisters with every nasty jab and playful comment. Merci and Demorizi’s shared lived-in chemistry is a fresh of breath air. Their dialogue is effortlessly natural. When they meet up with Dante after flying in, they survey the home and remember old times. When Dante meets with them and tells them the house is to be demolished, the sisters are heartbroken, almost feeling betrayed by the thought of the foundation they grew up in coming apart. They come to terms with the news and try and enjoy their time in the Dominican Republic, and their last days in grandmother’s home, as best they can.

Spending time and filming on location in the DR lets Peralta’s film remain cherished and untouched, like the little moments of unspoken nature. The lush cinematography from Tim Curtin gazes at the footsteps of a country’s historic culture and the singular history of each Dominican family. The film ruminates on the greenery of the Domincan Republic as Rita and Carolina’s stay becomes increasingly reminiscent of what their family left behind. In a house that was once filled with busy bodies now rests idle in a time frame of memory and picturesque treasures. Rita, Carolina and Dante go through all of the belongings before the land is torn down. What won’t be left behind are the many albums and trinkets that called that space a home. Even their grandmother’s suits, wigs and pearls are given one last wear as Carolina and Rita playfully embody their strong and spunky matriarch.

What won’t be forgotten are the moments shared  between the siblings as they reminisce and cut open deep wounds from their past. During a night off from the house, they hit up a local night club and come back to see the gates were left unclosed. When no threat to the home is established, It’s a snapshot of family confronting their faulty assumptions as Rita and Dante go at it about how much the other came up short or didn’t care to reach out when things fell apart.

As the sisters find themselves back in the Dominican Republic, the film touches on what it means to feel housed in their heritage again, welcomed back to the affection of family. Rita and Carolina moved away from the DR with their father while Dante stayed behind to live with the grandparents. In one heated verbal bout, Dante ridicules them for leaving and now showing up with a claim to privilege, as he sees it. He understandably has felt left behind and somewhat conflicted that the sisters would now show up to claim any inheritance.

By its outlined significance, the sisters adapted to a life outside of where they came from. While this imposes pain in the static rekindling with their brother, it allows the sisters to plant a new connection to Dante. They meet their nephew in his son and form a kindred new tie to their home, one that’ll stay in touch from miles apart.

De Lo Mio is truly a profound story, pulling memories of family and pieces of one’s motherland into the center of a passionate frame.  It goes a little further than surface level sibling drama, as its message strides on familial love, forgiveness, and contemplation. Only in this trip back to the Dominican Republic did Rita and Carolina come to familiarize themselves with a part of them that was hanging onto strings prior. With De Lo Mio, Peralta revisits her home country with an affectionate hand. It’s a tender reflection on culture and family that feels so raw. Peralta is a doting filmmaker and loves her characters and country so deeply in this love letter that is De Lo Mio.

Rating: ★★★★½

Directed by: Diana Peralta
Written by: Diana Peralta
Cast: Sasha Merci, Darlene Demorizi, Héctor Aníbal

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