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‘Problemista’ - more than a toy story

A woman with purple hair looking at an egg on her head.
Marcus Falcão / THE GATEPOST

By Kristel Erguiza 

Staff Writer 

What do immigration, Cabbage Patch Kids™, and eggs have in common? “Problemista” answers that question. In Julio Torres’ directorial debut, his film also debuts the question that most immigrants have, which is, “How do I survive in America?”

With Torres as the main character, Alejandro, and Tilda Swinton as the eccentric art critic and employer of Torres’ character, Elizabeth, this movie tackles issues of racism and job stability all in New York! He is an aspiring toy creator - he had been faced with rejection from Hasbro, and wanted to build a life for himself as well.

The ideas that Alejandro has when sending them to Hasbro were very interesting to me and made me laugh so hard! A Cabbage Patch Kid™ with a smartphone that sends mean texts with her friends, a Barbie doll with crossed fingers behind her back to show her untrustworthiness, a fake snake that apologizes for scaring you. It was funny seeing niche things that our generation and teenagers would understand.

This movie has become one of my favorite surrealist comedies I’ve seen. One aspect of the movie I really enjoyed was the bright colors. It felt like I was experiencing what Alejandro was, with the crazy colors showing what his life in Bushwick was like, rushing around trying to get his green card to stay in America. 

I found that placing the setting of this movie up in New York was very prevalent because it’s the place most people consider the epicenter of immigration and where America really is a “melting pot.”

Continuing onto the issue of immigration shown throughout this movie, it shows scenes of Alejandro and his mother having touching talks about life in Bushwick vs. El Salvador, and how they both have the same artistic lens in life, with his mother also being an artist and wanting to help her son with the life that they feel like he deserves.

Feeling very anxious throughout the movie was something that I never really had experienced before while watching something. When there were scenes with Larry Owens of “Abbott Elementary” fame, who played Craigslist personified, it made me feel like I needed to go get a job from Craigslist because of how demanding his character made Alejandro feel.

Trying to get money to pay for his visa fees, he ventures out for different jobs, including being a cleaning boy and renting out his room to strangers. Wanting to have a better life for himself is shown throughout his resilience and effort to get a new job.

Another scene that made me feel really mad and uneasy was the scene with the Bank of America. Alejandro’s account is overdrafted and he has to have a back and forth with a worker, which culminates in him not even getting the result that he desperately wanted. 

The character of Elizabeth played by Swinton gave me flashbacks to bosses that I didn’t really vibe with, but were still very good at making sure that their employees had what they needed to do a good job. Swinton’s character was very electric, and made sure Elizabeth had the second laugh or second word when it came to others, which I found very hilarious.


The motif of eggs symbolizes how misunderstood everybody in this movie was, especially Alejandro. Being discontent with what life brings them, Alejandro and Elizabeth both forge a path that helps them succeed in what they want in life. 

Knowing what you want in life, and knowing how to get it, is important. And that’s what “Problemista” helps us figure out. 

Rating: B- 

Eating eggs and looking at toys will never be the same! 



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