‘Problemista’ Review: Wildly Imaginative

Written by Matt Rodriguez

Julio Torres delivers one of the best films of 2024 with the wildly imaginative and inspiring Problemista. As writer, director, and star of the film, Torres injects his own brand of dark humor into a world full where hopes and dreams are all anyone has. It’s bizarre, with an unflinching perspective on the American Dream that hits you at your core. Like any great work of art, the more you think about it, the more it opens your mind to its themes and wonderous possibilities. Problemista is the solution you didn’t know you needed.

Alejandro (Julio Torres) dreams of becoming a toy designer for Hasbro, but when he ends up getting fired from his current job at a cryogenics company he finds himself at risk of being deported and losing the chance to work at his dream job. Alejandro is from El Salvador and is in New York City on a work visa. No job equals no visa, and he now has 30 days to find a new employer to vouch for him. While packing up his things at the cryogenics company, he meets the eccentric Elizabeth (Tilda Swinton) whose artist husband Bobby (RZA) has frozen himself for future society. Elizabeth is a lot to handle for most people and is great at making a scene, but both her and Alejandro take a liking to each other and decide to help each other out. He decides to help her organize an art gallery exhibit featuring Bobby’s paintings of eggs, and she will sign his work visa so he can stay in the country. That is the price of following one’s dream.

The story of the American Dream is no stranger to the big screen, but Problemista‘s presentation is what sets it apart from any other I’ve seen. The film goes hard on the whole dream aspect, embracing Torres’ inner child and bringing his ideas to life no matter how big or outrageous they might be. You see, he doesn’t just want to be any old toy designer. His designs are a bit more obscure and include toys like a Cabbage Patch Kids doll with a cell phone featuring screenshots of random texts between friends or a toy car with inflatable tired that constantly lose air until you can’t play with them any more. Like Alejandro’s toys, Problemista is a film that takes something familiar and puts quite the spin on things to make you think more deeply about what it means.

When Alejandro loses his job, he becomes stuck in a vicious cycle that can seemingly only end in deportation. He’s not allowed to make any money unless he finds an employer to sign off on his work visa. At the same time, he also needs money to pay the thousands of dollars it costs for the application process, not to mention whatever costs he has associated with just surviving. He finds himself going to Craigslist for whatever odd job he can find to make ends meet. Meanwhile, Elizabeth dangles her signature on his work visa like a carrot on a stick, taking advantage of a young boy who will do almost anything just to stay in the country.

Elizabeth is an absolutely awful person and Tilda Swinton plays her perfectly. There’s no character I’ve seen in recent memory who I hate more than her. She’s mean, self-centered, obnoxious, and most of all delusional. She’s an old white woman who seems to have everything handed to her while Alejandro is the exact opposite. And yet Alejandro’s drive and passion to follow his dreams is why he continues to work for her despite her abuse. What else is he going to do? There are some heartbreaking moments throughout, and you want to see Alejandro to succeed despite everything he goes through. His compassion and empathy allow him to connect with and even appreciate Elizabeth in her own unique way. There is the hope that he will get out from under her influence and flourish as he was meant to.

Problemista is one of the most fascinating films of the year. Julio Torres is a force of nature and while his style of comedy might not be for everyone, his message and themes are simply too powerful to be ignored. Problemista hits you with every emotion and makes you want to hug that inner child that is lost deep within you. We all have dreams and aspirations. Problemista will hopefully give you the courage to chase after them.

  • Problemista


Problemista is bizarre, with an unflinching perspective on the American Dream that hits you at your core. Like any great work of art, the more you think about it, the more it opens your mind to its themes and wonderous possibilities.

About the author

Matt Rodriguez

Owner and Chief Editor of Shakefire.