Day: March 10th, 2008

La Misma Luna

Monday, March 10th, 2008 | All Things, Film

Our film tonight was Patricia Riggen’s feature debut, Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna)… it’s unclear to me why the English title adds the preposition. The press materials prominently note that the film premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival where it received a standing ovation. On the strength of that audience buzz, Fox Searchlight and The Weinstein Company purchased the rights for $5 million, making it the second largest sale at the festival that year.

Under the Same Moon is the story of a young boy (Adrian Alonso) making a perilous journey across the U.S./Mexico border to be reunited with his mother (Kate del Castillo), who is working as a maid in Los Angeles. The film also features brief cameos by America Ferrara of ABC’s Ugly Betty and Grammy Award-winning Mexican band Los Tigres del Norte.

I was reminded of another film set against the thorny backdrop of illegal immigration: Gregory Nava’s excellent El Norte, which I first watched in Sra. Slavin’s sophomore Spanish class. There, it was a brother and sister fleeing war-torn Guatemala for a “better” life in California (“Take me! I’m a strong pair of arms!”); Under the Same Moon broadcasts similar messages about the plight of undocumented Mexican workers struggling to survive in the United States.

The main focus, though, is about the love between mother and son. Despite an all-too-predictable trajectory and deliberately heart-tugging melodrama, this film managed a few surprisingly effective emotional moments, thanks in large part to Alonso’s performance as Carlitos. The 14-year old Mexico City-born actor (who plays a 9-year old, believably) is familiar to American movie goers for his role as Antonio Banderas’ precocious son in 2005’s The Legend of Zorro.

Reviews have been mixed: The New York Times dismissed the film for its mawkishness and lazy caricatures (“It has bad white people, hard-working brown people and morally ambivalent people of mixed race.“); The Washington Post praised the film for its “affecting story, indelible characters, urgent topical relevance and superbly calibrated sentimentality.”

TH Film Series

The post-screening discussion was with William Wolf (left, in the photo above), author and former film critic for Canada’s Cue Magazine, New York magazine, Gannet newspapers and the New York Observer, and current member of New York Film Critics Online, an organization of 26 Internet film critics based in New York City. Wolf was charmed by Under the Same Moon… and though I’m probably one of those he describes who “rebel against manipulation,” darned if I didn’t get a little misty-eyed at the ending, too.

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