Even across thousands of miles, the special bond between a mother and son can never be broken. It gives hope to Carlitos, a scrappy nine-year-old boy whose mother, Rosario, has gone to America to build a better life for both of them. While Rosario struggles for a brighter future, fate forces Carlitos' hand and he embarks on an extraordinary journey to find her. Critics and audiences alike have praised this inspirational and heartwarming tale of a mother's devotion, a son's courage and a love that knows no borders.
Under the Same Moon
puts a human face--several very appealing faces--on the dilemma of Mexican "illegals" living and working clandestinely in the United States and the loved ones back home they're supporting. Rosario, a young single parent, left her village four years ago and jumped the border to find work in Los Angeles; ever since, she and son Carlitos, now nine, haven't seen each other, but she faithfully calls him from the same street-corner pay phone every Sunday morning. When Rosario's mother--the boy's guardian--dies in her sleep, Carlitos taps into an impressive reservoir of street smarts and contrives his own border crossing. The border is just the first of many obstacles to a mother-and-child reunion--not least the fact that the only address the boy has for Rosario is a mental image of the corner she always phones from.
It's easy to take cheap shots at Patricia Riggen's feature-directing debut for tugging at the heartstrings, and certainly Under the Same Moon aspires to nothing like the political and psychological complexity of The Visitor, another film involving illegal immigrants that was released around the same time. But that misses the point, the nature of the mission, and the effectiveness with which Riggen carries it out. Carlitos encounters an almost Dickensian gallery of rogues and menaces, but that's allegorically appropriate for a crossover film (pun unavoidable) aimed at the general U.S. market as well as the Latino circuit. Nor is the movie guilty (as some have charged) of flogging an Anglo-bad/Latino-good poetics; there's opportunism as well as love among Carlitos's neighbors back home, and although Rosario is exploited and cheated by one of the two L.A. households she serves as a maid, the other family appears fond, even solicitous of her.
Riggen's casting is on the money: Kate del Castillo makes a heartbreakingly lovely Rosario, and Adrián Alonso, in addition to giving a gutsy performance as Carlitos, has a marvelous old-man's face the camera never tires of. Veteran actress María Rojo creates a shrewd portrait of a woman who arranges border crossings and observes her own brand of ethics while doing so, and Eugenio Derbez brings raffish charm to a crowd-pleasing role, a guest worker who, though himself two leaps ahead of "La Migra," becomes Carlitos's reluctant protector. America Ferrara (yes, "Ugly Betty") contributes an unflattering cameo as a U.S. college student of Hispanic descent who doesn't understand Spanish. --Richard T. Jameson