Southwest fairy tale

A simple story of a son trying to reunite with his mother against the backdrop of illegal immigration.

She gave him light-up tennis shoes, you know, the ones that blink with every step you take, the ones that were all the craze in elementary school. She gave him shoes to make up for the fact that she couldn’t be at his ninth birthday fiesta; she couldn’t watch him break open his piñata, or blow out his candles. All she could do was send some money, and call him once a week, every Sunday at 10 a.m., from a pay phone on a Los Angeles street corner.

La Misma Luna

DIRECTED BY: Patricia Riggen
STARRING: Kate del Castillo, Eugenio Derbez, Adrian Alonso
RATED: PG-13
SHOWING AT: Uptown Theatre, 2906 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis

Rosario hasn’t seen her 9-year-old son Carlitos since she made the dangerous – and illegal – crossing into the United States, to make a better life for her son.

It’s been four years since she crossed, and she is still working two jobs, raising the child of an American couple while her own son grows up without a mother or father.

A Sunday morning phone call is the only connection between the two, besides the money Rosario sends her own mother to care for Carlitos.

The story is old, mother separated from son, but it’s told in a new context, modern-day United States and Mexico.

Circumstances change when Rosario’s mother, Carlitos’ grandmother, won’t wake up. Missing his mother and seeing nothing in his future for him in Mexico, Carlitos uses the money he’s earned by secretly working with a coyote (a woman who sneaks people across the border) and a contact he met on the job, to smuggle himself into the United States.

The faces of Rosario, Carlitos, and the people they meet along their journeys are the faces of one of the hot-button issues of the upcoming elections, whether you call them illegal immigrants, aliens, or undocumented workers.

The mostly Spanish-language film follows Rosario’s life living and working in the United States and Carlitos’ dangerous journey to get to her.

“La Misma Luna” or “Under the Same Moon” gives a window to the illegal immigration “industry” that is often invisible: the college students who smuggle people into the country to pay for tuition, the woman who runs a boarding house of sorts to care for old farm hands, the maid who can get fired without cause and have her pay withheld, the rich Americans who knowingly hire undocumented workers.

Fourteen-year-old Adrian Alonso hams it up as Carlitos, giving a touching performance of a boy whose intelligence and luck are just a little too good to believe, but you believe anyway.

One of the most striking relationships is between Carlitos and another undocumented worker, Enrique, whom he meets by chance along the way. At first Enrique is wary of the responsibility and burden of looking after a child while on the run and looking for work, but he soon warms to Carlitos’ charms and helps him on his journey.

It’s a fairy tale of sorts, one even the most hardened conservatives couldn’t challenge. It would be a rare person who would be cheering for Carlitos to get sent back to Mexico instead of finding his mother.

Both funny and romantic, nail- biting and adorable, “Under the Same Moon” and Carlitos’ blinking shoes enlighten the dark world of illegal immigration through the eyes of a separated mother and child.