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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at ASU chapter.

SPOILER ALERT! This review contains some spoilers.

Turning a novel into a screenplay is no easy feat. Having to pick and choose which moments from the book are most important to the plot and development of the characters can be difficult.  ‘Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe’, the novel written by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, tells the coming-of-age story of two Mexican American boys finding themselves in their nationality as well as their sexuality. The original novel spans 392 pages. 

Screenplay writer and director Aitch Alberto tries to tell that same story in one hour and thirty-six minutes. However, the result feels rushed and superficial, never really giving you enough time to connect to the characters and the story before jumping to the next scene. Oftentimes, the movie tells when it could show. It feels as if Alberto wants to stay as true to the original novel as possible, taking multiple pages from the book and cramming them into one scene without many rewrites.

The dynamic between Ari (Max Pelayo) and Dante (Reese Gonzales)starts off friendly. There is sort of an obviousness of underlying confused/romantic interest, but that is only due to Pelayo and Gonzales’ chemistry. Moments between the boys begin to feel rushed, however, as Alberto tries to tell the story of Ari’s family dynamic, Dante’s accident, Ari’s relationship with Dante’s family, transphobia, homophobia, Dante’s departure, Ari’s sexuality, Ari’s brother, and other small moments in between. No theme is given enough time to be explored; instead, it isimply presented and moved on from.

By the time we become aware of Dante’s feelings for Ari, we are deep into the movie and the boys have been apart for a lot of it. The moment feels awkward, and it’s hard to understand why Ari would feel comfortable reciprocating anyway, as the boys’ connection doesn’t feel there yet. However, Ari’s anger doesn’t make sense either and simply feels like an attempt to make him seem as bad as his brother.

By the end of the film, it is hard to find a full catharsis in the romantic moment shared between the boys, despite the entire movie leading up to it. While the kiss is undeniably cute and there is a breath of relief you let out, it still feels like a letdown. Ari and Dante start off fighting after their first kiss (hinting at internalized homophobia from Ari), and then Ari almost beats a man to death for hurting Dante and putting him in the hospital. Then,they drive to a romantic outlook we see many times throughout the film and kiss. However, on the whole ride there, Dante is still mad at Ari.

As far as we know, Dante doesn’t know Ari fought the man, and we never see Ari apologize for calling Dante a freak after their first kiss. We know the pair are going to get together, but it’s hard to find enjoyment in the actual moment after all of these things. Despite how romantic and beautiful the moment is, the pacing of the story leaves the audience disconnected from the relationship of these two characters, resulting in an ending that almost feels disappointing.

‘Aristotle and Dante’ is a very cute movie that tries hard to turn a poetic, complex, coming-of-age novel into a heartwarming, important story. There are many moments in the film that do tug the heartstrings, but only barely. The pacing is off, and the screenplay feels awkward, never giving the audience time to fully connect with the characters. Alberto tries to do a lot of storytelling in too short an amount of time. It was a story that deserved to be told in the medium of film, detailing the complexities of family, nationality, ethnicity and sexuality. It just needed more structure and time to immerse the audience in the story.

My name is Madison Haynie, I am a returning Sophomore to Arizona State University! As a child I spent endless free time writing songs and short stories to fulfill my sense of imagination. I learned my love of acting then, after years of high school theater, I began pursuing photography my senior year. I decided to pursue a degree in Journalism in order to combine my love of writing and my love of photography. In my free time, I still enjoy acting on the side.