When you think of living a life of wealth and luxury there is, above all else, a pool. As much a marker of affluence as anything else, having a pool at your home signals that you’ve made it: you have a place to relax and enjoy the sun within the privacy of your own property. It’s no surprise to find the young characters in Laura Somers’ Rich Kids fantasize about what it would mean to live in that house down the street in their Houston neighborhood and get to enjoy the spoils of the pool on any given day.
On this particular day, at least, young Matías (Houston-born actor Gerardo Velasquez) is itching to loosen up and live a little: armed with a towel, he sets out to climb over the property’s fence and enjoy the empty pool at ‘Los Ricos’s house. Soon enough, though, and once words spreads around that ‘Los Ricos’ are out of town, the house is filled with Matías’s friends and family who get to live out their fantasies and pretend, if only for one afternoon, what it would be like to be rich enough to live in a house with a pool.
Deceptively simple in its premise, Somers and David Saldaña’s script subtly tackles issues of gentrification and displacement through the lens of Latino and Afro-Latino American youth in South Houston. The sun-dappled moments in the pool as well as the tender moments in the enormous house where these group of kids play dress-up (“When did you find out your family was poor?” one asks, almost breaking the spell) at first suggest a dreamlike scenario. But as the sun sets, things take a violent and increasingly dangerous turn, putting into relief the challenges young Latinos face when living in communities ravaged by the wealth gap. Starring a vibrant collection of actors that includes Michelle Magallon, Ulysses Montoya, Brittany Sandoval and Justin Rodriguez — a rare all-Latino ensemble in an indie film like this one — Rich Kids is an urgent parable on what it takes to dream up a different life for yourself than the one you’ve been handed.
Rich Kids is now streaming on Netflix.