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‘Pulling Strings’: Mariachi love in an uptempo rom-com

Mexico City mariachi singer Alejandro (Jaime Camil) is desperate get his young daughter vis“Pulling Strings.”

Mexico City mariachi singer Alejandro (Jaime Camil) is desperate to get his young daughter a visa in “Pulling Strings.”

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Updated: November 5, 2013 6:05AM

Director Pedro Pablo Ibarra’s “Pulling Strings” (Rated PG; 110 minutes) is a warmhearted romantic comedy aimed at the underserved Latino market. Talented Brazilian actor-singer-heartthrob Jaime Camil stars as Alejandro, a hardworking Mexico City mariachi singer who is struggling to raise his young daughter after his wife’s death. When he feels things are getting out of control, he decides sending her to Arizona to live with her grandparents is the best option, but his request for a visa is denied by an American embassy worker, Rachel (Laura Ramsey).

At a gig that night, Alejandro again runs into Laura as she celebrates a promotion that will take her to London. Alejandro, aided by his friend Canicas (Mexican comic Omar Chaparro), isn’t ready to give up on the visa request and grabs at an opportunity to change Laura’s mind. The two take her on an adventure that opens hearts and minds to new possibilities.

Appealing performances and a not always predictable storyline help elevate “Pulling Strings” above the run-of-the-mill rom-com. The bilingual film (Spanish and English) also features Stockard Channing as Laura’s mother and Tom Arnold as her embassy boss.

“Pulling Strings” opens Friday at local theaters. Rating: ★★★

Mary Houlihan, for Sun-Times Media

Also opening Friday in Chicago:

† “Our Children” (no MPAA rating; 111 minutes) begins with the aftermath of an unimaginable tragedy. The rest of the film shows how circumstances and events led to this point.

It’s an interesting way to tell a story and a devastating journey, particularly because it’s based on a real-life incident. But director Joachim Lafosse and his cast, especially Emilie Dequenne, Tahar Rahim and the great Niels Arestrup, make it more than worth your while.

Young lovers Mounir (Rahim) and Murielle (Dequenne) want to get married. But Mounir has an unusual living arrangement. Since he was a boy, he has lived with Dr. Pinget (Arestrup), a physician who adopted him and brought him to Brussels, Belgium, from his home in Morocco. Pinget steers Mounir’s life, maybe to the point of controlling him.

How close is their living arrangement? Pinget accompanies the couple on their honeymoon, which he paid for.

A child is born, then another. Mounir goes to work in Pinget’s practice, while Murielle teaches at an elementary school. But always, there is Pinget, seemingly creeping around the edges of their life together.

“Our Children,” opening Friday at the Gene Siskel Film Center, is a film more admirable than enjoyable. But for those so inclined, it is also rewarding, an unflinching look at the role power plays in families and the price it exacts. Rating: ★★½

Bill Goodykoontz, Gannett News Service

† The rise of NBA phenom Jeremy Lin is the subject of “Linsanity,” a documentary opening Friday at AMC River East. Actor Daniel Dae Kim (“Hawaii Five-O”) narrates the saga of the devout Christian and son of Taiwanese immigrants. He played for Harvard and warmed the bench for several NBA teams before achieving an extraordinary scoring streak for the Knicks in early 2012. “Linsanity,” funded by a Kickstarter campaign, also is available on video on demand.

† A vintner doesn’t trust his son to take over the family vineyard in “You Will Be My Son,” opening Friday at the Music Box Theatre. When it was shown last summer at the Chicago French Film Festival, Sun-Times reviewer Bill Stamets called the film “a serious-minded drama about sons, subordinates and succession.”

† The documentary “Symphony of the Soil,” opening Friday at Facets Cinematheque, posits that problems from climate change to world hunger could be solved by treating our soil better. The bad guys: pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers.

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