This is a story of people who cannot be understood by the people they left behind, and cannot themselves understand their new life.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

"My Family" is a very good film about the ache of cultural dislocation. The movie begins in the muted colors of 1933 and works its way through timeto the neon tones of modern Los Angeles. And so it is with the family.

This story of three generations of Mexican immigrants in Los Angeles showsthe epic struggle of a man who leaves his country for a new world, without connections or resources, fueled only by the unwavering tenacity needed tosurvive from one step to the next.

The founding father's classic journey brings him a wife, children, and ahome, but he cannot protect them from the Los Angeles police, who scoop up hisyoung wife and deport her as she is shopping for her family--even though sheis a U.S. citizen. "In 1933, if you looked Mexican, you were picked up and shipped out," the narrator says. It was California's way of saving Depression- era jobs for Americans.

Two years later, after an agonizing journey on foot, the young mother makes her way back, and the gentle family resumes the quiet work of building a new life. But the problems of their new world wash over them. Things work for the young parents while they can hold their family close. When they can no longer do that, they can neither influence nor understand what happens next.

As the growing children are absorbed by the Hispanic life of Los Angeles, they are caught up in the pressures and dilemmas of today. In their wake stand the bewildered, gentle parents, who made the original journey through time. "What happened to our children?" their father asks. They have become creatures of another culture.

The family struggle reaches its highest pitch in son Jimmy (Jimmy Smits) and his wife. As witnesses to the murder of close relatives, they have become vehicles for the hate and rage and injustice generated in the cultural shift that had to be, by simple definition, difficult and complicated.

Jimmy Smits is the central, strong presence in this moving story, and he is surrounded by a uniformly excellent cast that includes Esai Morales, Edward James Olmos,Jenny Gago and Eduardo Lopez Rojas. Together, under the direction of Gregory Nava, they have made a fine movie full of the laughter and sadness that infuses family dreams.

Another element with the strength of a star is the house that retains the simple beauty of the Mexican heritage and acts as a touchstone for the complex human beings who grew up in it.

This is a story of people who cannot be understood by the people they left behind and cannot themselves understand their new life. The beauty of custom and spirit that infuses the early years is snuffed out in one awful moment of an immigrant odyssey turned street story: "We got 'im, Sarge. That was a helluva shot!" For this family, everything in life happened either before or after that shot.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 497
Studio : New Line Cinema
Rating : R
Running Time: 2h6m

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