he main question Under the Same Moon poses is whether its story, which follows the basic outline of a separated mother and son fairy tale, befits its subject, the plight of illegal Mexican immigrants. The immigration issue has in the last few years become a hot one in part due to economic angst and homeland security paranoia, but Mexican director Patricia Riggen and screenwriter Ligiah Villalobos don't use their film to explore the larger political picture of fence-hopping workers and the varied American responses to their increasing numbers. Instead Under the Same Moon remains at ground level, showing audiences the unique backgrounds of individuals forced by circumstances to leave their homes and risk their lives north of the border.
The problem with Under the Same Moon, then, is that while many of its characters can conceivably represent these real people toiling in the undocumented shadows far away from their families and communities, its protagonist, nine-year-old Carlos (Adrian Alonso), does not. His journey from a small Mexican town to Tucson to East Los Angeles in search of his illegal alien mother, Rosario (Kate del Castillo), might be possible, but realistically it's only the stuff of heartstring-yanking melodrama. That doesn't mean there isn't room within Under the Same Moon's predictable trajectory for a few surprisingly effective emotional moments, but the film as a whole betrays the somber authenticity of its subjects' dire situations with unbelievable and sentimental contrivances. Click here to read Michael Joshua Rowin's review of Under the Same Moon.