La misma luna (Under the Same Moon) is a touching saga of a nine-year-old Mexican boy, Carlitos (played by fourteen-year-old Adrian Alonso), who seeks to join his mother Rosario (directed by Kate del Castillo) after the untimely death of his grandmother Benita Reyes (played by Angelina Peláez). Directed by Patricia Riggen, the film begins in México, where adorable Carlitos is being reared by his grandma. His mom left for Los Angeles four years earlier, and his birthfather Paco (played by Gabriel Porras) abandoned Rosario for Tucson before Carlitos’s birth. When Benita dies in her sleep one day, Carlitos is determined to visit his mom on her birthday the following week. The on-the-road film poignantly demonstrates conditions that illegal Mexicans endure in pursuit of the good life in the United States. The early part of the trip involves applying to be smuggled, coming up the $2,000 for the trip, and the smuggling itself. His small body, placed in a minivan’s secret compartment, fools the authorities, but the car’s owner forgot to pay traffic tickets, so the vehicle is impounded at the Texas border pending payment of the fines. That night, Carlitos crawls out and begins his journey on foot. A minor, the bus company will not accept his money to travel alone, so he must hitch a ride. He accompanies illegals hired to pick tomatoes, and filmviewers see a raid by immigration authorities. During the raid, Carlitos and Henrique (played by Eugenio Derbez) hide undetected. Carlitos tries to bond with Henrique, who does not want to be burdened with him, since his destination is New York, but increasingly Henrique finds meaning in his life in caring for Carlitos, who finds a dishwashing job at a diner on condition that Henrique is also hired. In Tucson, Henrique assists in finding his birthfather, who over a hamburger paid by Carlitos promises to take him to LA to reunite with Rosario, but the following morning he fails to arrive at the diner to begin the trip. Carlitos and Henrique then take a bus to LA. Carlitos only has a post office box address, so his only hope is to stalk the telephone booth from which Rosario calls him. With clues about the box site near a laundromat, a pizza shop, and a mural somewhere in East LA, they search in vain. One night, after sleeping on a park bench alongside Henrique, the latter leaves to bring breakfast. Police spot the boy alone. While the police try to apprehend Carlitos, Henrique returns, throws the breakfast at the police to serve as a decoy, and Carlitos flees as the police arrest Henrique, and indeed he locates the pay telephone. Meanwhile, the scene has been shifting back and forth to Rosario’s life in LA. She is a cleaning woman at two houses, but snooty Mrs. McKenzie (played by Jacqueline Voltaire) peremptorily withholds pay while firing her, knowing that she cannot complain or police will deport her. Then her search for a replacement job is unsuccessful. While frustrated, the woman who arranged the smuggling tells her that Benita is dead and the whereabouts of Carlitos is unknown. She now has to choose between marrying a generous Mexican-American whom she does not love to get a green card or returning to México in search of her lost son. The last frames end on an upbeat note after a film that profoundly raises emotions of filmviewers to see the plight of illegals in very human terms. One Mexican family, with a mother and father and two small boys, were observed leaving a West LA screening serene while the mother caressed one of her sons, as if to say that she is grateful that their family has stayed together despite the booby traps set in a country that refuses to normalize the situation for millions. MH.
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