Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Two boys that could not seem more different at first glance bond over the summer of 1987. Dante is a self-assured and artistic extrovert. He’s the type of friend you’d only dream would come into your children’s lives. His father is a writer. He knows more about art history than any adult. More introverted, Aristotle struggles with his family dynamic and feels different. Longing to find his place in the world, anger, confusion, and fear hold him back. The friendship they form changes the trajectory of their futures. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a coming-of-age tale beautifully adapted for the big screen and brimming with emotional complexity.
I was shocked to discover that Max Pelayo and Reese Gonzales are first-time leads. They are two of the most natural talents I’ve ever seen onscreen. Their chemistry feels wholly organic. Each brings a raw vulnerability that’s touching and visceral. No doubt their experiences send you back to your awkward teenage years. Their unrestrained frankness is palpable. Pelayo and Gonzales are undeniable stars.
Isabella Summers‘ score perfectly captures the sweltering summer days of our youth with its plucked guitar strings and piano. Music supervisor Adam Bennati brings all the greatest hits from the 80s, made even more poignant by the radio DJ chatting in between.
The script’s structure is in three distinct acts. The first has Dante and Ari become friends. The second finds Ari and Dante writing letters to one another as Dante and his family have moved to Chicago for the year. We follow Ari’s social and emotional adjustments during this time as he comes to terms with his feelings. We also hear Pelayo and Gonzales’ voiceover acting as they read each letter. It’s a moving choice. Act three sees the return of Dante and the repercussions of living your authentic self.
Director Aitch Alberto‘s ability to capture the truth in these experiences makes me want to run out and read the source material from Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Lin-Manual Miranda, inspired by Alberto’s screenplay after narrating the audiobook, felt compelled to hop on board as a producer. His stamp of approval carries a lot of legitimate weight.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is an exquisitely important film. Representation matters so much. To see yourself onscreen, to feel like you’re not alone. There is a massive audience for this story. Queer adults who grew up in the 80s will be inextricably affected by this film. Today’s youth needs more stories like this.
The film premiered at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival to rave and is currently 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
It will be released in theaters September 8 by Blue Fox Entertainment. Aitch Alberto has most recently been featured on Variety’s 10 Directors To Watch for 2022 as well as Indiewire’s 22 Rising Female Filmmakers to watch in 2022.
She has also been included on The Black List’s inaugural Latinx List, the Tracking Board’s Hit List and Young & Hungry List, and NALIP’s list of “Latinx Directors You Should Know”