Documentary short shows young musician Cuco’s gentleness, ambitiousness

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Grade: 4.0/5.0

At the age of 19, musician Cuco can boast almost 1.2 million monthly Spotify listeners and a self-written, self-mixed and self-mastered EP, which builds upon his repertoire of two previously completed albums. He’s also not afraid to hug his mom on camera.

“You’re Doing Great” speaks to Cuco’s life beyond the stage. Created by The FADER, the five-minute documentary offers a glimpse into the young artist’s life beyond his musical success. Cuco, the film reminds us, is also a teenager finding his way in the gray space between adolescence and adulthood. He’s considering his place in the world.

The short film does not feature any sort of omniscient narrator — instead, Cuco, his mother and his friends provide all of the film’s dialogue. In turn, the viewer comes to better understand the teenager through the voices of the artist himself and of those who are most important to him. The documentary feels more like meeting Cuco for the first time than observing somebody interviewing him, providing a surprisingly intimate experience.

Footage of Cuco in everyday settings heightens the feeling of the documentary providing a genuine glimpse into Cuco’s life. Along with shots of Cuco hanging out with friends and recording music at home, the documentary pieces together a series of home videos of Cuco growing up, presumably shot by his parents.

The clips remind the viewer of the complexities behind the polished persona that a musical artist assumes behind prerecorded, edited tracks. Though famous, Cuco has not lived a perfect life, as illustrated by the footage of him not as a grounded teenager but as a vulnerable child. In fact, Cuco points out that while growing up, he often felt isolated, lacking siblings and friends.

Though “You’re Doing Great” succeeds in portraying Cuco in a nonintimidating light by virtue of including the artist’s own voice and home videos, it misses a key opportunity to paint its central figure in an even more three-dimensional light. The film neglects to formally introduce any of Cuco’s friends or family. Though his mother speaks directly to the camera multiple times and more than half of the film consists of clips of Cuco with his friends, the film never reveals the names of these figures, nor does it reveal their specific relationships to Cuco. This obscures those around Cuco, blurring the sharpness with which the film conveys his character.

Nonetheless, Cuco makes good use of his screen time, building upon the film’s overall sense of sincerity by going beyond his cursory life details. The artist discusses not only the role of music in his life but also his social role as a musician and as the only child of immigrant parents. As a musician, Cuco explains, he hopes to be a Mexican role model for young people, one he feels he didn’t have growing up.

Yet his sense of obligation goes beyond representation. “If you’re the kid of an immigrant, one of your main goals is always going to be to provide for your family and give back at one point,” he explains.

And some of the most touching moments of the film take place between Cuco and his parents. “You know, he’s my son. I want the best for him,” Cuco’s mother tells the camera, turning to her son. He responds by embracing her and kissing her on the forehead. In a society wary of male demonstrations of emotion, this is a testament to a gentleness evident in Cuco’s character, a gentleness the film depicts masterfully.

Though Cuco explicitly states that his primary goals consist of providing for himself and his family, he also speaks to his further aspirations: He hopes to give a voice to his community. Beyond that, though, Cuco explains that the rest is simple. “And then from there,” he says, “just make music to make music because I love it.”

Ryan Tuozzolo covers music. Contact her at [email protected].