A woman in Los Angeles slaves away at menial jobs, her only joy the weekly phone call home to Mexico, when she talks to her young son. He lives with his grandmother, and the money Mom sends home keeps them living comfortably. Still, Mom is scraping together the dough to bring her son to America with her. But then, tragedy impells the boy to set out to find his own way to Los Angeles, and to his mother…
Under the Same Moon is a romance — between mother and child — but a strikingly unusual one, in that Rosario (Kate del Castillo) and Carlitos (Adrian Alonso) are barely onscreen together, separated by long miles but joined by an arresting passion that first-time director Patricia Riggen, working from a script by Ligiah Villalobos, makes palpable through clever and heartfelt intercutting of their stories. And Moon is a road movie, too, as Carlitos, all of nine years old, lands in one kind of peril after another on his journey from Mexico to Los Angeles, including a terrifying (and illegal, of course) crossing of the border.
The inherent preposterousness of much of what transpires in Moon is more than compensated for by the heartbreaking sincerity of the all-too-familiar plight of women like Rosario: up at 4:30 in morning so she can spend hours on buses so she can clean the houses of rich people who cheat her out of her pay, so she can babysit other people’s children rather than spending time with her own… and all the while being bombarded with messages deep in the culture — from the blaring of talk radio to the snide comments of people around her — that she is some kind of “threat.” And of the familiar plight of men like Enrique (Eugenio Derbez), whom Carlitos befriends on his journey, beaten up by immigration officers for the terrible offense of doing dangerous, backbreaking work like picking tomatoes, and getting paid pennies for their effort.
Still, even the senselessness of immigration policies that punish hardworking people merely looking for a better life takes a back seat to Rosario and Carlitos and their desperate, aching desire to come together again — del Castillo is a beautiful cinematic presence, but even she’s outdone by Alonso, who gives one of the strongest, most affecting child performances I’ve ever seen. (For a sense of how precociously mature he is, check out the making-of featurette on the DVD — he’s a little charmer way older than his tender years.) I could pick apart the simplicities and unlikelinesses and inconsistencies of the overall tale, but that will never trump the enormous lump in my throat I was left with by the film’s end.
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