Bless Me, Ultima

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +2

Content: +2

Luke Ganalon, Miriam Colon, Benito Martinez. Drama. Written & directed by Carl Franklin.

FILM SYNOPSIS: This drama is set in New Mexico during WWII, centering on the relationship between a Mexican boy and his grandmother, an elderly medicine woman who helps him contend with the battle between good and evil that rages in his village.

The old woman is a cross between a shaman, a healer, and a voodoo priestess, which is upsetting to the largely Catholic community. When in desperate need, they call upon her for the healing of bad spells placed on loved ones, but when bad witches start dying, believed done by her spell placed on them, the neighbors turn on her Ė and the family.

PREVIEW REVIEW: I found a great deal of spirituality in The Tree of Life and Life of Pi, though neither was attempting to proselytize for Christianity. It wasnít the intent of those filmmakers to debate our spiritual journeyís road, but merely to remind moviegoers that there are those who have found one. At the outset, I thought the same was going to be true of Bless Me, Ultima. But writer/director Carl Franklin seemed more contemptuous of formal religion; his intent more in finding truth and satisfaction deep within man alone, as well as nature.

Iím respectful of all living things because God made them and they are living. I donít even pull leaves off trees unless Iíve got a pretty good reason. But I worship the Creator, not his creation. The reverse seems the intent in this film. The Christian God is either impotent or suspect of not caring about mankind within this story. This writer/director spotlights a priest who is tough on children, ruling them with religious law, never Godís grace. And one boy is told he will go to hell for not strictly following Catholic doctrine. Indeed, the Catholic children in the film (which takes place in the mid-1940s) are brought up to believe Protestants will go to hell. Everything done in the film subtly belittles or distorts not just Catholicism, but any Christian faith. Was this Mr. Franklinís agenda?

The production itself is well done, the cast giving their roles dimension, and the message of tolerance of others underlines the narrative, but it seems more for people who donít want to find comfort in Christianity, but rather in nature. In the end, the boy asks his grandmother, rather than Christ, to bless him.

DVD Alternatives: To Kill A Mockingbird. This beautifully photographed black-and-white movie with its haunting score by Elmer Bernstein may be the best adaptation of a book into a film Iíve ever seen. Horton Foote's Oscar-winning screenplay of the Harper Lee novel about rural life, justice, honor and bigotry as seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl is simple in its delivery, but nonetheless brilliant in its effect. Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch was never better.

Sounder. Award-winning performances from Paul Winfield and Cicely Tyson highlight this stirring story of a black sharecropperís family battling injustice and poverty. Truly marvelous.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Gran Via Productions

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: Two or three obscenities (the s-word) and a few minor expletives.

Profanity: I caught no misuse of Godís name.

Violence: We see three women doing incantations, they are witches and they put a spell on a man which almost kills him; a bereft father of one of the witches seeks revenge; eventually a man is shot dead; a manhunt for a drunken murderer ends in a brutal killing.

Sex: We see the boyís older brother leaving a brothel, this is very distressing on the child, but he never mentions it.

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Some drinking; in distress, men get drunk in a couple of scenes.

Other: We see a man vomit up something living, it is from the voodoo spell put on him; witchcraft.

Running Time: 106 minutes
Intended Audience: Mature viewers

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