Making the Grades
A single mom with an unpromising future, Rosario Reyes (Kate del Castillo) gathered up her hopes and dreams, and made a nightmarish crossing from Mexico into the United States. Before she left, she placed her son Carlitos (Adrian Alonso) in the care of her aging mother (Angelina Pelaez), with a promise to send for the boy as soon as she was able to get the necessary paperwork done. That was four years ago.
Now, the illegal alien finds herself trapped on the other side of the border, trying to earn enough wages to support herself, send a portion home to her family, and save some to pay for the services of an immigration lawyer. That extensive list of expenses requires laboring long hours for minimal pay, tedious job searches and dealing with unethical employers. There is also the temptation to solve her red-tape problems by accepting a proposal for a marriage of convenience. The only bright spot in her difficult situation is a brief phone call to her son each Sunday morning. More and more often she wonders if this new life is worth the sacrifice.
Meanwhile, living under the same moon but in a completely different world, Carlitos is trying to learn English and hoarding his own pesos in preparation for the big move. Unable to understand why his mother will not send for him, the nine-year-old decides to tackle the trip on his own. Leaving on a Tuesday morning, he hopes to arrive in Los Angeles before their next telephone date, so he won't worry his mom.
Of course the journey is more dangerous than the optimistic youngster realizes. Getting past the boarder patrol, as harrowing as that process is, proves to be only the beginning of his perils. Carlitos must also hide constantly from vigilant officials of the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) that are trained to catch unauthorized foreigners -- with force if needed (chasing, tackling and hitting with batons are depicted), rely on the mercy of dubious strangers (some of whom are willing to betray him for money), and work hard at any odd job that will provide food, a bed or cash. Fortunately, he does meet a few kindly souls along the way, including Reyna (Maria Rojo) who saves him from an uncertain fate at the hands of a sex trader, and Enrique (Eugenio Derbez), a self-professed loner that unwittingly gets his life and heart tangled up in the boy's plight.
Sadly, what Carlitos doesn't know is that while he is courageously making his way across the South Western States to his mother's arms, Rosario has decided she has missed too much of her son's life and is preparing to leave for Mexico to be re-united with her child.
Although this road trip story is occasionally detoured by contrived and sentimental moments, some mild and moderate profanity and the ever-present threat of deportation, there is no denying the film's ability to drive home tender feelings of familial love. Along the way, it also explores many of the complex issues surrounding America's illegal immigration problem. Presented in Spanish, viewers who have to rely completely on the English subtitles may, coincidentally, gain a greater appreciation for the difficulties of living with a language barrier as well.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna).
How do you feel about people living and working illegally within a country? Should they be deported? Should they be supported through job offers? What are the possible problems with either approach?
Many illegal immigrants feel they fill a necessary role in the work force because they are willing to do menial jobs that citizens, with access to better employment options, would chose not to do. Do you agree? What economic effect might be felt if these people were not there to fill the void? What might happen if they were granted legal status?
Home Video Viewing Alternatives
Here are some ideas for home video titles that are related to Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna).
The idea of sleeping under the same moon also brings comfort to a brother and sister that are separated during the immigration process in the animated movie An American Tail. Another young boy makes a dangerous journey in the hopes of finding freedom in the film I Am David.