I haven't read the 1972 source novel by Rudolfo Anaya, widely considered a milestone in Chicano literature. But this adaptation by writer-director Carl Franklin, taken on its own terms, is assured, sensitive, and commendably unpretentious, reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) in its portrait of a young child growing more aware. Like Franklin's Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), the movie benefits from a 1940s setting (here, the Chicano farming community in rural New Mexico) that's vivid without being nostalgic or overly fastidious, and his handling of child actors and widescreen cinematography is accomplished. The story's religious themes are impressively realized; Franklin seems to admire the young hero's Catholic educators as well as the elderly mystic who becomes his role model, yet he presents them as recognizably fallible.
Director: Carl Franklin
Producer: Jesse Beaton, Mark Johnson, Tom Williams, Sarah DiLeo, Kevin Reidy and Christy Walton
Cast: Miriam Colon, Benito Martinez, Dolores Heredia, Castulo Guerra, Joaquín Cosio, Reko Moreno, Joseph Garcia, Raul Castillo, Miguel Gómez, Luke Ganalon, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Luis Bordonada