Miguel Santos (Soto) is a poor, yet talented, young Dominican pitcher. His powerful, undisciplined arm catches the eye of an American recruiter, who stokes his dreams of making it to the Major Leagues. Arriving in small-town Iowa to play on a farm team, Miguel is warmly welcomed by his well-meaning host family, but he soon finds the difficulties of adjusting to a new language and culture adversely affecting his game.
Fleck and Boden’s beautifully low-key drama is an underdog baseball tale, to be sure, but it’s also a story about the immigration experience, told through the soulful eyes of a sweetly naive, 19-year-old hopeful. The mild discomfort we feel watching Miguel adjust to new circumstances is touching, and his unpredictable path to New York feels utterly true to life. Non-pro actor Soto will etch a place in your heart, with an understated performance that will appeal to sport-movie fans and anyone who’s ever felt far away from home. “Sugar” is bittersweet, and all the better for it.