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Here's my most important advice should you see this film: Bring Kleenex.

So I like a good tearjerker as much as the next gal, but I really thought my sobbing-at-the-movies days were far behind me. After all, I'm no longer a melodramatic teenager...I'm a grown-ass woman!

But when a movie revolves around the painful, wrenching separation of a mother from her son and his against-all-odds Dickensian quest to reunite with her, all bets are off.

The Mexican film La Misma Luna is the story of 9-year-old Carlitos, played by the astonishing Adrian Alonso. His mother Rosario (famed telenovela actress Kate del Castillo) is one of the estimated millions of Latinas who have left children behind in Latin American countries in order to come here, legally and illegally, and make enough money to feed said children.

Carlitos and his mother have been separated more than four years when tragedy spurs the boy's decision to cross the border, alone, armed with nothing more than an address to find his mother. The resulting journey is by turns dangerous and blessed, fearful and joyous. The lump in your throat remains long after the last, mesmerizing frame.

The narrative puts an achingly human spin on the hot-button topic of illegal immigration. While the melodramatic twists and turns verge on maudlin, it's refreshing to see a multi-faceted portrayal of illegal immigrants, and the compelling, desperate reasons why so many of them come here. It's a welcome break from the rhetoric spewed by the Lou Dobbs and Minutemen of the world. Their law-and-order argument is a perfectly contrasted black-and-white; movies like this fill in those crucial shades of gray by depicting the daily indignities immigrants face, and why they feel they have no choice.

This movie struck a personal chord with me because my Mexican grandmother was the first member of my immediate family to immigrate; my grandfather died suddenly, leaving her with four young children and another on the way. She eventually made the unfathomable decision to leave her kids behind and come to California, where she worked as a nanny while supporting her children back in Mexico. All five children eventually joined her, one by one.

She came here legally, so I take comfort in knowing that was one less layer of pain and fear she had to endure. She passed away in 2002; I regret never asking her about her impossible decision, but the truth is I can't imagine how I would have broached such a subject with my stoic Abuelita. Now that I'm a mother I can't even conceive of leaving my daughter behind, but I am certain I will never know the desperation that drove my grandmother across the border. This movie reminded me to be thankful for that (and for my grandmother's sacrifice), each and every day.

What do you think of tearjerkers, ladies: yea or nay? Are sad stories about motherhood particularly difficult for you to watch?

Cross posted from MotherTalkers

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