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                                                Under The Same Moon

 “Under The Same Moon” (“La Misma  Luna”):  Carlitos (Adrian Alonso) is a nine-year-old boy living in Mexico with his grandmother.  He’s never met his Dad, and his Mom, Rosario (Kate del Castillo) left four years ago for Los Angeles , working as a maid and a dressmaker and whatever she can find, in order to save the money to bring her son to her.  She calls him from the same pay phone every Sunday morning at 10 a.m. , and tells him  that when he misses her, just remember that they are both under the same moon.  When Carlitos finds that his grandmother has died in her sleep, he embarks on an unlikely odyssey to cross the border by himself and find his mother.  This film manages to maintain some very delicate balance, by not breaking the suspension of disbelief, and by treating realistically the lives of both Mexican nationals and their immigrant counterparts in the U.S. , while still retaining a certain whimsy, and even a sense of humor.  Engaging performances from 1st-time actors (such as Eugenio Derbez, whose previous experience was as a stand-up comic), and deft handling from a 1st-time Director (Patricia Riggen, whose previous experience was a documentary), from a heartfelt story by a first-time scriptwriter (Ligiah Villalobos, whose previous experience was “Go, Diego, Go”).  This year’s “Juno”:  the little film that shouldn’t have worked but did.  Will engage your emotions despite yourself.

 “Penelope”:  A whimsical fable about an ancient family curse that renders the snout of a pig to the face of a poor little baby girl named Penelope (Christina Ricci).  Her well-meaning but controlling parents, having sheltered her all her life, are convinced, now that she is grown, that if they could only get her matched with “one of their kind,” the witch’s spell would be broken.  But all the suitors take one look at her and run away screaming.   Except for one, Max (“Atonement”’s James McAvoy), who has his own distractions, including a gambling problem.  Like “Under The Same Moon,” this one works on the schmaltz factor of two people who are desperate for someone to love them finding each other at last.  But we root for them because they are like babes in the woods, bewildered but determined, resolutely optimistic despite their hard knocks, and never give up on their dreams.  In “Moon,” the side issue is immigration, a hot political topic in this year’s election, and in “Penelope,” the side issue is self-esteem.  The target audience seems to be young teenage girls who suffer from a negative physical image of themselves.  (“It’s not the power of the curse, it’s the power you give the curse.”)  As in “Moon,” the child-like Penelope “finds herself “when she works up the courage to venture out on her own.  And then she can find her true love, who is waiting for her under the same moon.

 “The Bank Job”:  Terry (Jason Statham), his real name changed to protect the guilty, is the beleaguered owner of a London car repair shop in the 1970s.  He and his buddies are having a hard time making a decent living, so they try to cut a few corners by fixing up some “hot” luxury cars, but then they are in trouble with the loan sharks who advanced them the capital.  He keeps telling his devoted wife that soon they and their two children will have their long-awaited financial breakthrough.  Meanwhile, a childhood friend from the old neighborhood, the glamorous Martine (Saffron Burrows), gets caught smuggling drugs in her suitcase at Heathrow.  In exchange for not being arrested, she agrees with some shady government operatives to arrange a bank job.  It seems there are some incriminating photographs of certain highly-positioned government officials, even members of the royal family, which are being kept in a safety deposit box in Lloyd’s of London.  Martine enlists her old friend Terry, he and his mates arrange to tunnel underground to the vault, and they make just enough amateur mistakes to actually get away with it, in part because they inadvertently help uncover another criminal operation with regular bribes to police officers.  By the time all the dirty tricks are played, we find ourselves rooting for the robbers, who don’t want to corrupt the government or anybody else, only live happily ever after.  And so, apparently, some of them still are.  Somewhere under the same moon.

 Questions For Discussion:

1)      When have you found yourself rooting for the criminals?  In movies?  In “real life”?

2)      Is there some physical attribute of yours that you feel has affected your self-esteem? 

3)      Should illegal immigrants be offered an opportunity to work toward citizenship without first being deported?


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas