BLESS ME, ULTIMA review by Ronnie Malik

BLESS ME, ULTIMA review by Ronnie Malik

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Director: Carl Franklin

Cast: Luke Ganalon, Miriam Colon, Benito Martinez, Dolores Heredia, Castulo Guerra, Joaquin Cosio

Rating: B

Bless Me, Ultima tells a tale about trying to understand the difference between good and evil as seen through the wide eyed innocence of a child. Antonio (Luke Ganalon), an adorable 7 year old, is at the heart of the story discovering that one may never get the answers to the mysteries in the ways of the world. He finds out that it is only through the power of believing in your convictions and standing up for what is right that will ultimately bring peace and harmony in life.

Antonio is growing up in the 1940′s with his 3 sisters, his father Gabriel (Benito Martinez) and his mother Maria (Dolores Heredia) on an impoverished farmed owned by his family. He also has 3 older brothers that are off fighting against the Nazis during WWII. Gabriel is hoping that Antonio will grow up and manage a farm in the dream land of California with his three brothers, while Maria hopes her son will become the first family scholar. One day Ultima (Miriam Colon), an aging medicine woman that served as a midwife to Maria, comes to stay with the family in their New Mexico home to live out her final days.

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Ultima has a special connection with Antonio since she brought him into the world. The young boy and healer form a special bond. As Ultima teaches Antonio about the art of healing by using the gifts provided by mother earth, rumors are brewing in the local village that Ultima is a bruja (witch) whose only purpose is to cast evil.

Antonio begins questioning the laws of nature after he witnesses his father involved in shooting down a fugitive. The dying fugitive asks the bewildered boy to bless him and absolve him of his sins. Not knowing what to do, Antonio simply stares at him in shock. Our young farm boy is faced with being ostracized by his other children on his first day of school. He also makes friends with a classmate who is a young atheist and gives Antonio a perfectly logical reason why he has no faith in God. Once Antonio’s brothers’ return from the war he sees the conflict in his own family as arguments break out on whether the three older siblings should pursue their dreams or that of their parents. Several life changing events cross Antonio’s path causing him to learn and grow both emotionally and spiritually.

When the daughter of Tenorio (Castulo Guerra), a local tavern owner dies, he accuses Ultima of a casting a spell on the girl and vows to seek revenge. Tenorio’s plot for revenge sets off a chain reaction of events that lead Antonio to think even more deeply about the true meaning of life.

Bless Me, Ultima is overloaded on lessons about war, poverty, religion, and anger. The film often feels very heavy and contrived as it tries to impart life lessons to its audience. The best part of this film is watching the interaction between Ultima and Antonio. Many tender moments unfold as the elderly healer imparts her wisdom on to her little protégé and that is ultimately what makes this movie worth watching.

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