East Side Sushi is a feel-good movie on the screen, and behind the scenes. Made on a tiny budget by local filmmakers, it’s the kind of solidly professional indie picture you want to succeed. Writer-director Anthony Lucero might have been directing his first feature, his resume includes a lot of movies you’ve heard of: a couple of Star Wars movies, Men in Black II, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Iron Man, The Hunger Games, The Avengers ... you get the idea. Lucero’s work, his day job if you will, is in Visual Effects. Meanwhile, he got the idea for a movie about a Latina woman, a single mom who decides to be a sushi chef. The production is almost entirely from the East Bay (outside of the two leads), and the location shooting will be familiar to everyone who knows about Lake Merritt and the Grand Lake Theatre and Fruitvale. The locations, and Lucero’s own time spent living in the area, lend an honesty to the film that is refreshing.
You’ve seen movies like East Side Sushi before, and you’ll see them again. The Latina sushi cook angle is new, but the essence of the film is the meeting of two cultures told in an uplifting fashion. That will be enough for most people. The hardest part for them will be finding a small film like this. And there is something to be said for a small indie like this that isn’t amateurish in the slightest. I don’t think it breaks new ground, but not every movie needs to accomplish that. Telling a common story in a slightly different way works when you have the talent on display in East Side Sushi.
Perhaps it even speaks to the quality of this movie that I liked it this much, considering it’s not quite up my alley. I usually respect a movie like East Side Sushi more than I love it. I wish there was more to it. But if you are the type who likes small stories well told, with unique settings and pleasing performances, you will enjoy East Side Sushi. 7/10.