Idol Chatter

underthesamemoon.jpgDon’t let the fact that “Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna)” is a subtitled movie deter you from heading to the theaters. Otherwise, you will miss a charming film with radiant characters and heartfelt storylines.
Rosario (Kate del Castillo) is an illegal immigrant in L.A. and a single mother to nine-year-old Carlitos (Adrián Alonso) whom she left in Mexico (under his grandmother’s care) in order to secure a better life in America. While Rosario supports her son through jobs as a cleaning woman/caretaker to rich households, she also calls Carlitos from a corner pay phone every Sunday morning for four years. As part of their weekly ritual, Carlitos asks his mom to describe the corner so he can picture her. This corner pay phone, near a colorful mural, a laundromat, and a Domino’s pizzeria, is important in Carlitos’s eventual journey to L.A.

When Carlitos’s grandmother passes away suddenly, he makes the decision to reunite with his mother. To do so, he takes his savings and secretly enlists an inexperienced Latina coyote (Ugly Betty’s America Ferrera) to help smuggle him across the border. He has one week to locate Rosario, before her next phone call to Mexico. Despite being a child, Carlitos is smart and resourceful, full of infectious hope. Alonso plays Carlitos with open-eyed earnestness and carefree precociousness, and it’s hard not to fall in love with him. Steady and strong, del Castillo plays Rosario as a mother who aches deeply about the separation from her son. With a quiet beauty that hints at Isabella Rossellini, it’s hard not to be mesmerized by del Castillo. What makes this movie special is the authentic mother-son chemistry between del Castillo and Alonso. Even though neither actor has scenes together for most of the movie, their spiritual and emotional bond expertly laces the movie together.
As the audience follows Carlitos on his dangerous journey from Mexico to LA, the audience also follows Rosario through difficult workdays with unfair employers. For a movie that explores such important topics as the dangers of people smuggling, the unfair treatment of immigrants, and the sacrifices parents make for their children, the movie is not maudlin or depressing. Moments of reality are juxtaposed next to moments of fairy tale: Carlitos escapes border police but is almost sold to a drug lord. Carlitos is saved from the drug lord by a motherly cook. Carlitos finds a job with immigrants at a tomato-picking factory, but he is almost caught during a police raid.
After this latest episode, Carlitos latches on to Enrique (Eugenio Derbez), a beleaguered and irritable immigrant reluctantly saddled as Carlitos’s traveling companion and father figure. The dynamic between a hopeful Carlitos and a hopeless Enrique is also a touching portrayal of the optimism of youth and the pessimism of age. Eventually, Enrique is also influenced by Carlitos’s buoyant persistence; he opens up to the world and discovers there is still beauty beyond himself and the immigrant life.
While on his travels with Enrique, Carlitos also reveals the meaning of the movie’s title—his mother once told him that no matter how they were separated, they would always be united under the same sky, under the same moon. Even though you know the movie will have a happy ending—how could it not?—the journey to the end should not be easily dismissed. The audience will see the difficult choices Rosario makes trying to provide her son with a better life (she entertains marriage to a man with U.S. citizenship) and the audience will also see the circumstances that lead to Enrique’s redemption. Yet the audience will also be won over by Carlitos’s neverending joy as he searches for that one street corner to meet his mother. This is a movie that will renew one’s faith in the impossible, and it is a soulful and lovely portrayal about how hope and love can connect people to each other.

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