(Movie Review by Dan MacIntosh) Those of us living in Southern California cannot escape the illegal immigration issue. Whether it is men in The Home Depot parking lot looking for work or the busboy at our favorite restaurant, citizens from the other side of the Mexican border have become a permanent part of our lives. And as the economy falters, talk radio takes even sharper aim at these “aliens” for using our medical facilities without paying taxes. When things get bad, it’s not unusual to look for someone to blame. And that makes these Mexicans easy targets.
The trouble with trying to understand these complicated issues — based solely upon the brown faces we see in our midst and the loud voices we hear over the airwaves — is that real people are conveniently ignored in the equation. We get a whole lot of statistics, but very little humanity. This is why Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna) is such a helpful and timely release. Its story, about a boy trying to reunite with his mother, does not incorporate any numbers. It also does not take a political position, whether from the left or the right. Instead, it puts the viewer inside the hearts and minds of real people, with real feelings, and leaves the audience deeply caring for these struggling individuals.
Adrian Alonso plays Carlitos, a nine year old boy living in Mexico apart from his mother. We pull for Carlitos, not because he’s a cute kid – although he is most certainly a charming boy – but because he comes off like a typical young child. Sociologists tell that a child’s identity is closely linked to that of his parents up until around the age of 12. And while Carlitos is many miles away from mom, he speaks with her on the phone every Sunday – an event that is the highlight of every week. His mother is clearly the most important person in his life.
Although Carlitos is a typical boy in many respects, he shows himself to be braver than most when he makes the journey to reunite with his mother. How many nine year olds would venture from one country to another, alone, to be with a parent? He doesn’t try and deceive anyone into helping him along; it’s his sincerity that causes most strangers to help him along.
Carlitos’ mother, Rosario, is played by Kate del Castillo. Rosario, like many illegal immigrants, is shown trying to make ends meet in Los Angeles, where she is forced to work multiple jobs. And while her best friend dives head first into the dating scene, Rosario cannot focus on such selfish interests – especially while separated from her son.
This film’s action revolves around the difficulties Carlitos encounters getting from his small town Mexican home, to big city Los Angeles. While on his way, between Texas and L.A., he experiences some of the same difficult grunt jobs many of his fellow citizens must also endure to survive. He picks vegetables, as well as washes dishes, all in hopes of saving enough for that bus ticket to his destination.
I imagine most viewers will come away empathizing with the plight of these two primary characters. You may have strong viewpoints about illegal immigration; but who’s to say you wouldn’t do the same thing if put in a similar situation? We may have wide ideological differences, but our neighbors to the south exist under the same moon. Yet if they’re our neighbors, do we truly treat them like neighbors all of the time?
Ligiah Villalobos (writer), Patricia Riggen (director)
Cast: Kate del Castillo … Rosario
Eugenio Derbez … Enrique
Mário Almada … Padrino
Adrian Alonso … Carlitos
Isaac Bravo … Chito
Ernesto D’Alessio … Oscar