There are prejudices amidst all the nationalities. In some circles, dark-skinned blacks have a history with light-skinned blacks. Poorer whites haven’t always seen eye to eye with wealthy whites. And according to this amazing family drama, some Mexico-born Hispanics have issues with U.S.-born Hispanics. Marta (America Ferrera) is a cash-strapped college student from the States who hustles up tuition money by transporting illegals into California via a secret compartment in her minivan. When she approaches a fellow trafficker about her services, the Mexican lady is offended and accuses Marta of thinking she’s better than the natives. Marta shamefully leaves, only to be later approached by Carlitos (an unforgettable Adrian Alonso), a boy of about 10 determined to get to his mother in Los Angeles. Poor economics are the only reason son and mother aren’t united. As a housekeeper in L.A., Rosario (Kate del Castillo) is able to send money to Carlitos so he can have birthday parties and some semblance of a decent childhood. But when the kid’s grandmother dies, nice sneakers can’t even keep Carlitos from risking life (Marta’s smuggling ploy is a disaster) and limb (run-in with junkies; runs from the INS) to get to his mom’s arms.
Mostly a sparkling display of love’s true force, Director Patricia Riggen’s film also serves as a bit of social commentary aimed at arrogant xenophobes who denounce immigrants but have nothing but devotion for “foreigners” like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Superman. You’ll laugh during the lighter moments. You’ll cry at others. But ultimately you’ll realize that under the same circumstances, you’d probably do the same things to unite your own family. -DW