All She Can (Wendel, 2011)


It’s about a young girl. Born in Benavides, Texas, raised by a her mother and grandmother, and educated in a rough school district. All She Can, also known as Benavides Born, is about a young girl’s journey to achieve her dream, a young girl’s journey to escape her circumstance.

College—it’s Luz Garcia’s dream—it’s her only way of escaping the big trouble of her small town. Her oldest brother Luis, (Joseph Soria of the TV show Army Wives) has chosen to work in the auto industry. That he has a job, a wife, and a baby on the way kind of says he’s accepted life in Benavides. This decision though is not a condemnation of him, as the Garcia father is not in the picture, and so Luis must help provide for the family. The second son, Carlos (Julian Works, from TNT’s The Closer, and Disney’s Disney Gets Connected) has financed his dream of college by joining the army. Both of her Luz’s older brothers play pivotal “father-like” roles in the film, they serve as confidants, motivators, and moral guides.

Though her family’s support may be abundant, her financial support is quite the opposite, as you may have guessed. The Garcia mother ( Leticia Magana) is working not only to finance the family’s current expenses, but to work the family out of debt. College may not be an option for Luz (played by Corina Calderon).

Her only means of achieving this dream, short of taking out massive loans and putting herself into debt—an out which her mother won’t allow—is through power-lifting. Luz is a talented, though not wholly dedicated—athlete. She works hard when she is in the weight-room, but seems to lack focus when she’s out. If she can overcome her high school rival and win the state power-lifting competition, she is sure to receive the financial support she needs to attend college.

Luz obviously feels as if she is shackled to Benavides. Breaking the bonds she has been born in, winning the competition, and escaping to college are too heavy a weight for her to handle. The stakes are too high for Luz, and she succumbs, thanks in no small part to her boyfriend (Jeremy Ray Valdez), to a temptation which many American athletes have also caved. I think the pivotal point in the movie comes when Luz increases the weight of her deadlift at the regional Regional competition—in many ways we should equate Luz’s unnecessary increase in weight at the Regional competition to her use of performance enhancing drugs—unnecessary, and, in the end, in vain.

The movie’s release comes at a time in our own history where professional athletes across the board are front-page and Sportscenter news for using banned substances.  Luz’s situation is unique though in that her pressure isn’t about a drive for fame or prestige, or because she doesn’t want to disappoint her country.  Success is truly her only out—her only escape—it’s all she has. But does she do all she can before turning to performance enhancers?

No. Obviously she doesn’t. She takes short-cuts. She drinks fiber laxatives for breakfast, she spits in a bottle all day to cut weight, and why? Because she’s out late at night, missing sleep (which athletes don’t do) and drinking beer (which is probably more calorie-laden than a piece of dark chocolate peanut butter cheesecake with whipped cream). So what is the title implying? That we each take a different path to achieve our dream, and sometimes we think we’re taking short-cuts to get there, but in the end we are setting road-blocks and traps for ourselves? Yeah, I think so. In the end we don’t know for sure that she even gets in to college, just that she is setting herself up to go to college, and finally doing it the right way.

What doesn’t make sense is her choice to step back from the weight-lifting competition for fear that she would be caught and her name would be marred; she seemed to have lost that fear of name degradation when she lit the barn on fire and stood, as if in wait, of the cops to find and jail her.

Is this acceptance of her fate, acknowledgment for her actions, meant to reveal to the audience her mental state? That she feels so overcome with guilt that she can’t seem to let herself get away with yet another heinous act? Is this act meant as a way out? If so then is she truly looking for an escape? She wants to escape her current home-life through exercise, she wants to escape her environment, she wants to escape herself through drugs, she wants to escape her choices by walking away from them, she escapes her failure by saying she wants to stay… is this a movie of escapism?

One of the film’s brightest spots is the performance by Jeremy Ray Valdez.  Even though he is nearly 33 years-old, he can still be cast in the role of a high-schooler. He did an impressive job, as did many of the cast, with the exception of Calderon herself.

All She Can is available for download from Cinedigm on on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, XBox, Playstation, Google Play, Youtube, and SundanceNow.

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