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Tetro Is Illuminating

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Although I usually write about environmental, food, and political issues, I have the wonderful opportunity to delve into a more emotional, complicated topic today: family. My cousin, Alden Ehrenreich happens to be a young, brilliant actor who stars as Bennie in Francis Ford Coppola's latest gem, Tetro.

Bennie journeys to Argentina to meet his long-lost brother, Tetro. The film is a timeless, brooding, sensuous exploration of the physical and emotional struggles between the brothers, in the backdrop of a sometimes absurd, comedic snapshot of an Argentine town. The push and pull between Bennie, who wavers between an unbridled attempt to fully understand why his brother left his life and his more cautious attempts to hold onto some connection to him, is played out in stark images and language, shot primarily in black-and white.

The film offers colorful flash-backs that exudes a sense of clarity of memories that Tetro wants to suppress and Bennie wants to explore. Memory scenes of choreographed dances are sometimes bizarre (such as the surreal removal of body parts), but are still soft and predictable in comparison to the explosive dances amongst family members. Tetro's unpredictable, often violent temperament and flare-ups with Bennie and his wife, Miranda, offer viewers an emotional and physical jolt.

The film is softened throughout with blinding images of shimmering white light. An innocent moth at the beginning of the film is drawn to Tetro's light, as is Bennie. He is drawn to something that is exposes sheer, raw pain, but he clings to it, in an attempt to find his freedom. Light can expose the darkness that haunts the brothers but, like fire, can be overly powerful. As Alden said in a recent interview, "While light demystifies, or illuminates everything around it, the light itself is very mysterious. That is, in some way, Tetro -- he's an anomaly to himself, yet he is constantly revealing things in other people as well as the world round him, but in a sort of destructive way. And then there's the illuminating power of my character, who is still figuring out himself and yet revealing so much in others."

The intensity of the film is contrasted with more absurdist, comical scenes and timeless characters who offer a sense of lightheartedness to the intense soul-searching of Bennie. Indeed, many of these characters seem to actually offer a outlet for him to develop a clearer sense of adulthood and identity. The entourage's trip to Patagonia offers spectacular visual imagery of the vast, stark landscape that is still not big enough to absorb Tetro's anguish, anger or secret.

Alden's performance has already garnered him many accolades and comparisons to Jack Nicholson and Leonardo DiCaprio. While he is humbled by such compliments, he offers a hint of his possible greatness when he said recently, "What I'm interested in, creatively, is something that doesn't yet exist."

Don't miss out. Tetro opens in New York and Los Angeles this weekend.