Up With Me is proof that you can make a good film out of old ideas. All it takes is a different approach, some reinvention to give the familiar themes a new twist. In fact, the only real shortcomings in "Up With Me" occur when the film tries too hard to be creative. As backward as it may sound, the film is at its best when it sticks to the situation that we've seen a thousand times before, for the simple reason that its technique gives it new life.
The film was created by the East Harlem Tutorial Program, with non-actors filling the roles and a do-it-yourself mentality governing every aspect of it. Written by Maeve McQuillan and Greg Takoudes (with help from some of the kids) and directed by Takoudes, it's about a kid from Spanish Harlem named Francisco (Francisco Vicioso) whose academic excellence has earned him a scholarship to a fancy upstate prep school. His girlfriend, Erika (Erika Rivera), misses him, knows it will be good for him, and frets that they will be divided by his new education. His best friend, Brandon (Brandon Thorpe), on the other hand, is openly bitter about Francisco's departure, seeing it as a betrayal in the immature way that teenagers see everything as a betrayal.