Under the Same Moon (2008)

Very Good

Content written by Tony Macklin. Originally published on April 3, 2008 in Fayetteville Free Weekly.

Lou Dobbs will hate Under the Same Moon (la Misma Luna). In the past Dobbs has debunked his roots.

He said, "I have no idea who in the heck or where in the heck my grandparents came from. I don't even care."

Some who are not so dismissive of their roots may have a different sense of personal history.

Under the Same Moon puts a human face on illegal immigration. More than that, it gives it a human heart.

A lot of people seem to like Under the Same Moon. It set an opening week record for a Spanish-language feature in America. Although in subtitles, it seems to have reached diverse audiences.

Under the Same Moon is the story of a nine year old boy Carlito (Adrian Alonso) who has been separated from his mother Rosario (Kate del Castillo) for four years.

Carlito lives with his grandmother in Mexico, although he yearns to be reunited with his mother who went to the United States illegally to work for her son's future. She has two jobs, which enable her to save money and send money home to Mexico. Once a week, every Sunday, she calls her little boy on a pay phone, and describes her surroundings and tearfully connects with him.

When the grandmother dies, Carlito decides to cross the border illegally and to try to find his mother. His odyssey is fraught with tests and obstacles.

Under the Same Moon is part fairytale, part odd couple saga and part journey.

It is sentimental and contrived; it's cooked with convention. But it's also sprinkled with surprises. A dance scene is unexpected, and there's a clever song on the soundtrack about Superman as illegal workers pick tomatoes.

This inventive use of music reminds me of the music in Carl Colpaert's G.I. Jesus (2006) -- a vastly underrated movie about a Mexican national.

Even though some scenes are telegraphed in Under the Same Moon, one doesn't always know what will happen. That keeps the film alive and interesting.

What most holds Under the Same Moon together is the talented cast. Leading the way is young Adrian Alonso, who plays the determined, enterprising Carlito. He's reminiscent of Salvatore Cascio who was the child Toto in Cinema Paradiso (1988). Alonso has the same open, disarming style as Cascio.

Kate del Castillo is credible as Rosario, the mother who is struggling to keep her dream alive, and who doesn't want to compromise. In a brief role, America Ferrera (TV's Ugly Betty) portrays a student who tries to get Carlito across the border for a fee that will enable her brother (Jesse Garcia) to stay in school.

The actor that invigorates the last part of the film is the very popular Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez, as a cranky loner who wants nothing to do with Carlito, at least for a long time. The scenes between the two of them have a peppy chemistry.

Under the Same Moon was directed by Patricia Riggen from a screenplay by Ligiah Villalobos. At times they've concocted a film that is frustrating to watch. Some things may drive you nuts: Rosario, marry Paco, or don't marry him. Just make up your mind. Stop teasing the poor schmuck. And, Carlito, look in the phone book for the addresses of Domino's.

But despite lapses in logic, Under the Same Moon has a good heart. If it's not at your local theater, put it on your list of movies to rent. Who can resist a film in which a boy loves his momma? Even Lou Dobbs had a momma.

You might be interested in reading my most recent reviews, all of my reviews from 2015, or all of my reviews from 2014.

For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).

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