It's been a while since I experienced in the movies, a mother's love for her young child, and vice versa, being the primary focus of the film, especially with one that dealt with distance and longing. The last one that truly moved me was the Japanese film Be With You, and no prizes for guessing that this Mexican number Under the Same Moon will join its ranks.
The title is nothing new though, as with movies as far back like An American Tale, where its theme song played on that exact same premise, of having to gaze up at the moon knowing that the person in your heart is probably doing the same thing and thinking of you too. Yes, such saccharine sweet sentimentalism, but it worked wonders here.
Directed by first time feature helmer Patricia Riggen, the movie follows both mother and son characters in separate threads, having been separated for many years, but keeping in touch through weekly Sunday telephone calls from public phone booths both sides. For Carlitos (Adrian Alonso), despite the gifts that mom sends back home to him, he misses her much and prefers that she is back in Mexico rather than working in the US. For mom Rosario (Kate del Castillo), she smuggled herself illegally to Los Angeles for work in order to raise their lot. But when his guardian grandmother passes away, Carlitos begins to plot his way to get himself to the LA within the week, to look for Rosario lest she calls home and worries that he's missing.
So begins the adventures of Carlitos as he begins to learn that the world is indeed full of unseen bad folks who will not hesitate to traffic him to child smugglers. And many of the scenes for his character have him interact with a reluctant surrogate father figure in fellow illegal Enrique (Eugenio Derbez). For Rosario, her character piece becomes like a showcase of the much generalized exploitation of illegal workers, as well as going through the usual aspirations of being a naturalized citizen so that she can finally bring her son over for reunification. Otherwise for the most parts she's often debating within herself whether it's high time to return to Mexico since her intention and goal seem to slip by every day, given being swindled as we are told, by her previous owner, and of course making sense of the love that a fellow Mexican has for her.
Some might complain that they can probably see how the story would develop as it wore on, but you have to admit that Adrian Alonso's charismatic Carlitos will still have you engaged throughout with that cherubic face of his, brimming with faith and confidence. While he might have started off pondering a lot on why his mom did what she have to do, soon he will learn, and we accompany him on this journey, a thing or two about love and concern. Given that he doesn't share the same screen for the most parts with his mum, it sort of became key that he constructs and builds upon his initial dislike for Enrique much like a parallel contrast with that relationship with his mother, up until the final moments which was probably a bit deus ex machina, and felt a little rushed somehow.
But on the whole, Under the Same Moon serves its purpose and delivered itself well thanks to its great casting. And it also makes for a perfect date movie too, with a reminder to bring along some Kleenex for the finale. Highly recommended.