Crossing the border
Under the Same Moon looks at illegal immigration from a different point of view
Immigration. It’s a hot topic that has fallen out of the mainstream news of late, but is still on people’s minds—just check out the signs on the road for State Assembly hopeful Dan Logue, with “Secure Our Borders!” in large type below his name (as if a state assemblyman has any say in the matter).
Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna), which is about 95 percent in Spanish with English subtitles, takes a look at the issue from the view of Mexican illegals, through the eyes of a mother and son on opposite sides of the border. I was surprised, and pleasantly so, to see this film come to Tinseltown, if only because of the subtitles. It’s a sweet story filled with grit and sadness, and it tells a tale many of us haven’t heard before.
Carlitos (Adrian Alonso) is a cute-as-a-button boy who, on his ninth birthday, receives a regularly scheduled 10 a.m. Sunday phone call from his mother, Rosarito (Kate del Castillo). He is living with his grandmother in Mexico, somewhere in the vicinity of Ciudad Juarez, and his mother is in Los Angeles trying to make enough money to get a lawyer so she can live legally in the United States.
The entire movie takes place between phone calls—from one Sunday to the next. In that week, Carlitos’ sick grandmother passes away, and he is coincidentally presented with an opportunity to cross the border by stashing himself in a young American couple’s van.
Once across, Carlitos is on his own. He befriends a junkie American and asks for a ride, and is saved from being sold into slavery by a kindly Mexican woman who cares for other illegals like himself. Carlitos’ charisma and determination help him avoid the ICE (la migra) and eventually, after befriending the grumpy Enrique (Eugenio Derbez) make it to Los Angeles, where he realizes he has only a P.O. box address for his mother.
Meanwhile, Rosarito, who is working two housekeeping jobs, considers returning to Mexico or marrying a man who is legal (but not a U.S. citizen and therefore not helpful to her, though the film doesn’t acknowledge this).
Alonso is simply adorable, and for being so young (he’s actually 14 years old), his acting is impressive. (You might also recognize him from The Legend of Zorro.) Derbez, one of Mexico’s most famous actors, who is known for his comedy, is excellent here, highlighting his sense of humor particularly in a scene in which Enrique and Carlitos hitch a ride with a band (actually Los Tigres del Norte), who completely ignore him in favor of the young boy.
Speaking of bands, the music in Under the Same Moon is fun and adds a new dimension to what those of us who do not speak Spanish know of Mexican music. A song about Superman being an illegal is particularly funny.
Some have argued that the movie glorifies illegal immigration. In my view, it’s putting a face on an issue that many U.S. citizens might otherwise not see.