Film review: ‘Bless Me, Ultima’
Wed, Feb 20, 2013 (4:17 p.m.)
Rudolfo Anaya’s 1972 novel Bless Me, Ultima is considered a landmark of Chicano literature and is one of the most widely read books in American schools, but whatever made it so beloved and enduring doesn’t come across in Carl Franklin’s bland film adaptation. Set in rural New Mexico in 1944, Bless Me is a coming-of-age story about a young Mexican-American boy (Luke Ganalon) who bonds with the title character (Miriam Colon), a traditional healer who comes to live with his family. Neither the period detail nor the magical realism (Ultima is a mystic who communes with nature) comes through particularly strongly, and the performances, especially from Ganalon, are flat and uninspired. Instead of a heartfelt exploration of a vibrant part of American culture, Bless Me comes off like a dull TV movie. The inevitable in-class showings are going to be prime days for students to doze off.