Ten years ago, LGBTQ+ novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz earned critical acclaim and a passionate following. After a long road to bring the story to the silver screen, the film adaptation is finally getting a wide theatrical release, and it promises to have us all in our feelings this fall.
Taking place in 1987, the story follows Aristotle “Ari” Mendoza (Max Pelayo) and Dante Quintana (Reese Gonzales), two Mexican-American teenagers living in El Paso. After an encounter at the local pool, the two become fast friends. Ari is athletic and determined not to turn out like his incarcerated older brother. Dante is more artistically minded and always quoting some lines from literature.
Beyond platforming captivating cinema, this year’s event highlighted the struggles, hopes, and dreams of those who are underrepresented
Their blossoming friendship is jeopardized when Dante’s family relocates to Chicago, and for the next year, the two keep in touch by exchanging letters. When they are reunited the following summer, they find settling back into their former closeness a challenge. Dante is growing into his sexuality, and this attracts the local community’s ire. Ari must confront his own identity, friendships, and family while holding true to his best friend.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, earning early praise for its representation and heart-warming tone. In April, Blue Fox Entertainment secured the distribution rights and released the first official trailer right at the tail end of Pride month.
Openly trans writer-director Aitch Alberto began adapting the screenplay as soon as she read the novel in 2014. “It was a recommendation from a friend, and I read it on a whim in one sitting,” she recalled in an interview with Variety. “It spoke to my soul in a way that I hadn’t experienced before, and it unlocked so much in me.
“It subverted expectations and narratives that we see around Latinx people and queer people in such a gentle way and beautiful way. It became my life’s work to make it into a movie.”
She later tapped Lin Manuel-Miranda, who performed the audiobook, to produce the film. In addition to Pelayo and Gonzales in the leading roles, the film stars Eva Longoria, Kevin Alejandro, Luna Blaise, Eugenio Derbez, and Veronica Falcón.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe will have its full theatrical release on September 8.