Under the Same Moon

By Laura Gatewood

(La Misma Luna)

A story more focused on the bond between a mother and a son than the struggle Mexican illegal immigrants face trying to make a better life for themselves and their families in the States though it doesn’t ignore this issue either, Under the Same Moon is a sweet though almost saccharine film experience.
Taking place over a pivotal week in the lives of a son, Carlos, trying to reunite with his mother, Rosario, who has been living in the States and away from his home in Mexico, the movie is largely carried off by the cuteness of twelve year old Adrian Alonso and beautiful pathos of actress Kate del Castillo. Though it was celebrated at Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered in 2007, the movie’s long-term quality is ultimately exceeded by a short-term watchability.
Under the Same Moon picks up four years after Carlos’ mother, Rosario, leaves him in the care of his grandmother to cross the river to Los Angeles for work so she can earn enough money to bring her son to the States, the land of better opportunities. The story begins on the day of Carlos’ twelfth birthday, specifically a Sunday morning at 10:30 am, the set- in-stone time when Carlos and Rosario are about to speak on the phone, their weekly ritual and one that has not been broken since her departure, apparently. The conversation is filled with tears on both sides, loving words, and Rosario painting a picture with words for Carlos exactly what surrounds her as she stands at a corner payphone, a description that will play an integral plot device later in the story.  Monday brings routine, which for Rosario is waking before dawn to catch several buses that will take her to her cleaning jobs in a ritzy section of Los Angeles, and are scenes which also allow the filmmaker to show the extremes to which illegal workers will go to in order to earn money and stay in the States. For Carlos it is school then an afternoon of secretly helping the kindly local woman, La Coyota, who helps secure safe passage for workers looking to sneak across the border.  
On Tuesday Carlos’ world implodes when he discovers his grandmother has died in her sleep, and rather than alerting anyone, Carlos takes the opportunity to try to reunite with his mother in Los Angeles and sets off alone on what will become an incredible journey that requires more than a small stretch of the imagination.   He makes his way across the border with the help of two US born Mexicans he met while working  with La Coyota, one of whom is played by the most famous face in the case, America Ferrara, in a small and ultimately forgettable role. And then, over a series of one near-catastrophe after another Carlos encounters a string of nefarious white people who unilaterally seem out to do more harm than good, though he is invariably saved by kindly-hearted immigrants. His most notable savior, a true hero in the rough named Enrique (Eugenio Derbez), becomes Carlos’ very unwilling guardian and ultimate sacrificial lamb after an immigration raid at a Texas tomato farm on Thursday leaves them stranded outside of El Paso with only three days for Carlos to get to Los Angeles and meet up with his mother before she discovers his disappearance.  Together they work their way to a bus fare to Los Angeles, with one meaningful stopover in Tucson where Carlos meets his real father who lets him down just as he must have let Rosario down years before.
Meanwhile, Rosario has reached the end of her patience with waiting to have enough money to bring Carlos to the States and decides to marry a gentle-hearted legal security guard, Paco (Gabriel Porras) who’s had a long-time crush on her to become legal and bring her son to the States. But she reneges at the last minute as she only wants to marry for love, though given the sparks between them, they will probably wind up together eventually.  The canceled wedding comes on Saturday night, at the same time as the news that Rosario’s mother died and Carlos has disappeared, which prompts Rosario to almost abandon LA in search of her son in Mexico but a last minute reminder of the impending phone call sends her to the designated payphone where, inconceivably in the real word, Carlos has also just arrived. The two reunite in a rush of love and implied future bliss.
 Under the Same Moon is not a great movie. It pulls too often, too hard, and too obviously on the heartstrings of the viewer while sermonizing on the plight of the illegal immigrant. But it isn’t a bad movie either, and is carried off by the competent performances of its main leads and the adorableness that certain child actors have on screen, a quality Adrian Alonso has in spades. To take it for what it is, a kindred spirit to the hyperdramatic telenovelas so popular in Mexico, Under the Same Moon is an easily digestible experience.
Rosario: Kate del Castillo
Carlos: Adrian Alonso
Paco: Gabriel Porras
Enrique: Eugenio Derbez

Directed by Patrica Riggen
Written by Ligiah Villalobos