Under the Same Moon (**)
Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna) is about a pressing, contemporary topic—illegal migrant workers in the U.S.—yet treats it with an old-fashioned sentimentality that would make even Dickens blush. Carlitos (Adrián Alonso) is the film’s Little Nell, an adorable, down-and-out Mexican boy who, after the death of his kind grandmother, goes in search of his mother, Rosario (Kate del Castillo), a maid in L.A. (She’s trying to save up enough money to get him smuggled to her, natch.)
The journey is not as simple as plucky Carlitos anticipates, and the rest of Under the Same Moon consists of various imperilments: Carlitos’s initial attempt to escape across the border inside the van of a well-meaning American couple (one of whom is played by Ugly Betty’s America Ferrera); his encounter at a bus station with a sneering junkie who tries to sell him for drugs; and his falling-in with a burly, surly migrant worker who wants to ditch him, but then softens and takes him under his wing.
There is a certain kick to watching this adventure play out, but it is a primitive one; at times La Misma Luna feels like an adaptation of the children’s book Are You My Mother? This, even, would have been fine had screenwriter Ligiah Villalobos handled her adult characters competently. Instead, what we see of the preternaturally gorgeous Rosario’s experience in L.A.—one that thousands of real women endure—is terribly unsubtle. She works for stereotypical rich bitches and contemplates marrying a man she doesn’t love in order to gain citizenship. For all La Misma Luna’s political intentions, it’s a predicament that seems interpretable only as treacly fiction.
Under the Same Moon is now playing at the Cumberland (159 Cumberland St.).