Every Sunday at 10 a.m., Rosita in Los Angeles, calls her son Carlitos in Mexico. The movie opens on Carlitos' 9th birthday with a tender conversation.
La Misma Luna, a story about a Mexican mother and son separated for four years while she works illegally in Los Angeles, sending money home to support Carlitos and his grandmother, and saving towards the day Carlitos can join her. The story is perhaps a gentle telling of the dangers of crossing the border, constant fear of discovery by the INS, the sorrow of family separations that are not easily solved, and the problems of work and compensation in the U.S. I say gentle, because I think the harsh reality of such situations would be difficult for us to watch.
When Carlitos' grandmother dies, he decides to take matters into his own hands and find his way to his mother. The trip across the border at El Paso is harrowing. Making his way from there to Los Angeles seems truly impossible. But Carlitos learns quickly and finds people to help him. On his journey, he finds his real father in Tucson whom he has never seen, but who is so touched by his little boy, he promises to take him to LA to find his mother. But the father fails to show up, and Carolitos must rely on the unlikely companion Enrique (the character who makes the greatest sacrifice after all).
Rosita, in the meantime, unaware of what is happening with her little boy, loses one of her two jobs, this one cleaning house for a wealthy but heartless woman who fires her on a whim and refuses to pay her a final check, pointing out that Rosita, after all, has no legal recourse. Unable to find another job, and weary of the struggle and separation from her son, Rosita deides to return to Mexico. Her close friend then convinces her to marry Paco who has legal papers and can allow her to remain in the U.S. She finally agrees, but backs out at the last minute, and the kind-hearted Paco agrees to take her to the bus where she boards, headed for El Paso.
The movie's ending takes you by surprise and will surely bring tears to your eyes. The audience burst into spontaneous applause, which is quite rare indeed at a movie theater.
Besides being a well-done and a heartwarming story, the movie does help to illustrate the plight of Mexican nationals coming to the U.S. illegally seeking a better life both for themselves and family back home. It isn't the entire story, it's true, and there are many factors that make it not such a simple dilemma. But I for one couldn't help thinking how grateful I am that I am not faced with such difficulties and choices.
The five of us met at the theater and walked a few blocks to the Blue Iquana restaurant where we enjoyed some of the best Mexican food I've had in some time. With margaritas and pina coladas all around, strolling singers to entertain us, and our usual lively conversation, it was difficult to tear ourselves away and make our way back to the theater. Our evening together was another memorable one.