Stand Clear of the Closing Doors unfolds with documentary-like realism

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Starring Andrea Suarez Paz and Jesus Sanchez-Velez. Rating unavailable. In English and Spanish, with English subtitles. Now playing

This second effort from talented New York director Sam Fleischner (the delightfully eccentric Wah Do Dem, mostly set in Jamaica, was the first) gets an inside track on the lives of everyday people, and with that extra something that makes it art.

When we meet 13-year-old Ricky (newcomer Jesus Sanchez-Velez, who has Asperger syndrome), he seems out of step with his school surroundings. His older sister (Azul Zorrilla) is not exactly thrilled at having to keep tabs on him. Ricky’s due on the bus home to their seaside home in Queens, by Rockaway Beach, but this day the autistic teen gets sucked into the city’s massive subway system, and starts riding endlessly through the burroughs. (The film’s title is Americanese for “Mind the gap.”)

The bespectacled kid isn’t in huge danger, except from hunger and thirst, but his mother (impressive Andrea Suarez Paz) is frantic, of course. As a Mexican in the U.S. illegally, she’s afraid to go to authorities, as her American foothold can be quickly lost. A sympathetic clothing-store owner (Marsha Stephanie Blake) tunes into the situation and pitches in. And the sister pokes around their neighbourhood, if only with the haphazard regard of a teenager more interested in fashion than family.

Ricky’s largely absent dad (Mexican star Tenoch Huerta) is working in another state, and is likewise too precariously placed to risk asking for time off. This fractured clan’s tenuous existence is the subtext for a tale—scripted by Micah Bloomberg and Rose Lichter-Marck—that unfolds with documentarylike realism. The foreground is purely experiential, though, centring on Ricky’s impressions of flashing colours, passing faces, and the general blur of the city, underground and above. Sarah Lipstate’s superbly atmospheric guitar-loop music helps enliven the world of a boy who draws beautiful spirals and wants, somehow, to trace a path of his own.

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