DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Under the Same Moon

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Under the Same Moon

Under the Same Moon (2007) dir. Patricia Reggin
Starring: Adrian Alonso, Kate del Castillo, Eugenio Derbez, Maya Zapata


By Alan Bacchus

In 2007, Under the Same Moon (aka La Misma Lun) never did find its audience. This is no surprise. It’s uncool, unhip, old fashioned and a little corny. But its optimism and heart-on-its-sleeve sentimentality is a welcomed breath of fresh air. This simple tale of a young Mexican boy's journey to be reunited with his mother across the border is a near perfect rendering of the classic Odyssey-style storytelling and a small unearthed gem waiting to be discovered.

The opening establishes the two main characters, nine-year-old Carlito and his mother Rosario. Rosario crossed the border illegally 4 years ago and now lives in LA working as a maid so she can properly provide for her son. Carlito lives with his grandmother in Mexico. His life is safe and secure, but he’s brave enough to mask his desire to grow up in the company of his mother. Breaking the bond of mother and son creates such a strong cinematic hook, the real-world plausibility or logic of such a situation becomes mute. A dramatic event at the first act turn occurs which puts his domestic situation in question.

Carlito goes on a journey to find his mother, a journey that takes him across the border via a series of interesting characters – some good, some not so good – who help at each stage along the way. The less you know about the specifics of the story the better because despite the Hollywood conventions it’s an unpredictable series of narrative twists and turns – something new and exciting is discovered with every new beat, scene and act turn. If I was teaching a course on screenwriting, Under the Same Moon could be a case study on the perfect structure and execution of its genre.

The finale is unabashedly 'Hollywood', but it’s still thoroughly cinematic and satisfying. It’s the perfect ending for this special film.

The anchor is a remarkable performance from youngster Adrian Alonzo – an astonishing performance comparable to any of the acclaimed child performances in recent memory (i.e., Haley Joel Osment, Abigail Breslin, Dakota Fanning, etc.). But the lack of recognition for such work is equally astonishing. Young Adrian holds down the film with complete authenticity. His sad but strong eyes instantly give Carlito the street smarts the character needs for us to believe that he could make this journey.

The characters he meets along the way are introduced casually but are slowly developed under our noses. Check out the loathsome Enrique (Eugenio Derbez), who enters the picture as a fellow border crosser that has no need to hang around a nine-year-old while evading the INS ( I wouldn’t either). But surprisingly, Enrique hangs around long enough to become an integral supporting character who learns something about honour and friendship along the way.

It would be easy to dismiss the film for simplifying complex issues, or the fact that it makes no overt political stance on border relations between Mexico and the U.S. The border exists purely as a cinematic device or barrier between mother and son. The film is bigger than the political issue because it’s a pure form of storytelling, which in the annals of history will survive long past its 'politically divisive' contemporaries.

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