Under The Same Moon

David Vidaurre

“Under the Same Moon” is a controversial new film directed by Patricia Riggen that deals with immigration issues. It is the story of young Carlitos whose mother, Rosario, has left Mexico for Los Angeles in an effort to give her son a better future.
Carlitos does not understand Rosario’s efforts and is anxious to be with his mother. Carlitos and Rosario talk at 10 a.m. every Sunday morning, Carlitos from his Grandmother’s home where he lives and Rosario from a public payphone in East LA.
This conversation is the highlight of Carlitos’ week. During one of these conversations, he asks his mother when they will see each other again, and before you know it, only five minutes into the movie, half the audience is in tears along with the characters on the screen.
This early scene is just one scene of many — with approximately ten-minute intervals — that drive the audience to tears.
To be fair, however, it is a sad story and continues to get sadder: Carlitos’ grandmother suddenly dies one morning. He discovers her dead as he goes to give her breakfast. Now, feeling completely alone, he goes off in search of his mother.
A series of unlikely coincidences and astonishing luck land him in Tucson, Ariz. where he briefly meets with his father who he had only recently realized existed, and eventually to Los Angeles where the search for his mother begins.
If films were judged according to how much they can make you cry, this movie would be spectacular. But unfortunately — for Riggen — that is not how movies are judged, and most people require a little something more.
The adventures that little Carlitos gets into are completely ridiculous and implausible. The way he is rescued each time he gets into muddy waters (just at the right moment!) is also irritating and not believable.
The movie also clearly and unabashedly forces its political views on the audience. It is not simply a story about a boy looking for his mother and it should not be regarded so simply; it is an attempt to make the audience sympathize with a political viewpoint.
The way the movie foists its views is usually unfair and exaggerated — its portrayal of Americans is ridiculous, with only a single somewhat virtuous American character that has a few seconds of screen time.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with making a primarily politically motivated film, as many great films are such, but the way this movie treats the issues is unfair and even manipulative.
And when a movie is in the business of trying to make a point, the critic, in judging the movie, should address how well and fairly that point is made instead of just focusing on “the story.”
It wasn’t all terrible. The movie certainly was moving and the audience certainly does want Carlitos to find his mother — except for those who would prefer him to be back in Mexico, of course.
The movie tries very hard and succeeds at making us sympathize with Carlitos and Rosario. If nothing else it might be regarded as a story of human achievement over great and frequently unbelievable obstacles.
The movie puts a face on the immigration issue — a cute nine-year-old face, to be exact — and might make conservatives who were not alienated by the obnoxious shove-it-down-your-throat propaganda reconsider their views.