If you know who the Arias brothers are, chances are you’ve grown up with them. Moises, the oldest, got his start on Hannah Montana and Nacho Libre before eventually graduating into independent films like The Kings of Summer, The Stanford Prison Experiment, and last year’s King of Staten Island. His younger brother Mateo also got his start in a Disney Channel show, Kicking It before moving on to the summer sex comedy Good Kids. Now the Arias brothers are teaming up with director and co-writer Esteban Arango on Blast Beat, a very different coming of age film than what we are used to seeing them in.
Based on their 2015 short film of the same name, Blast Beat takes place in 1999 and follows Carly (Mateo), a metalhead science prodigy and his sensitive and unfocused younger brother, Mateo (Moises), as they immigrate from Columbia with their mother (Diane Guerrero) to Atlanta, where their father (Wilmer Valderrama) is already settled. Both rivals and protectors of the other disagree about where their family should call home. Mateo is fine in South America where military unrest threatens their friends and family, while Carly will stop at nothing to work for NASA, including lying to a professor (Daniel Dae Kim) about being enrolled in the local college. Together the two navigate brotherhood and America, trying not to get swallowed up by either force.
Even though the story is driven by two equally compelling performances by both Arias brothers, the film still feels like a character study. Maybe “relationship study” would be a more accurate term, but every plot point and decision made by the director and writing team goes to fuel that relationship, no matter how long or irrelevant the setup may seem. At times, each brother seems irredeemable and others completely helpless. While it certainly helps that Moises and Mateo are related and have that complicated brotherly bond, the destructive love that their performances perfectly capture prove that the brothers are capable of so much more than their past roles as side characters in other people’s stories.
Daniel Dae Kim (Always Be My Maybe, Lost), Diane Guerro (Orange is the New Black, Doom Patrol), and Wilmer Valderrama (That 70’s Show, NCIS) round out the supporting cast as various adults in Carly and Mateo’s lives. The one issue with having two such strong leads is that they slightly overcast the rest of the performances. You keep waiting for Kim and Guerro to have a moment to shine. Part of this is due to the script, written by Erick Castrillion and Esteban Arango, focusing solely on the brother’s perspective, but even the dialogue they have is not much to work with. Despite this, the trio delivers strong supporting performances, emphasis on supporting.
Blast Beat premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival before being picked up by Vertical Entertainment. A daring and originally done coming of age tale, the film is a captivating look at two brothers who desperately love each other but refuse to understand one another.
Blast Beat is playing in select theaters and On Demand. Watch the trailer below.