El Norte (1984)

on January 27, 1984 by BOXOFFICE Staff
Much of "El Norte" is uneven and overwhelmingly sentimental. Nevertheless, in the end, its characters are winning and their odyssey a fascinating one. The story is tremendous in scope. We meet Rosa (Zaide Silvia Gutierrez) and Enrique Xuncax (David Villalpando) in their village in Guatemala. They are peasants, brother and sister, close with their family. But their father is shot for participating in a labor meeting, and their mother is carted away by soldiers in a town sweep-up. Their own lives are endangered if they stay in the community.

   Rosa and Enrique make their way north, provided with only the name of a "coyote" (Rodolfo Alejandre) in Tijuana--a man who will take them across the border to America. Their journey is dangerous, at times terrifying; Rosa is almost eaten by rats as they crawl through the tiny sewer that is their only pathway to California.

   But they do arrive, and the third part of this epic movie begins. In Los Angeles, life begins anew. Enrique gets work as a busboy and Rosa as a maid. They adapt surprisingly well to their new surroundings, and it's heartwarming to see them succeed. Throughout, they remain true to each other and their original family values.

   "El Norte" is provocative and original. If it is in some respects overdone, that should not strangle the boxoffice. This has a shot at stepping beyond traditional art-houses and reaching into more commercial circuits.

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