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Cultural Family Assessment in “Under the Same Moon” Film Essay (Movie Review)

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Updated: Jul 11th, 2021


Considering the cultural aspects of a family is crucial for understanding family processes, values, beliefs, and practices. One of the most explicit examples of culture and ethnic traits affecting the well-being of family members is a movie directed by Riggen (2007) Under the Same Moon. The present paper offers an overview of the family from the movie.

Description of Movie Family

The movie revolves around a single-parent family of Mexican origin. Rosario is the mother of the family, who left her only child, Carlitos, with her mother when the child was five years old. She went to the USA to find a job to support her child and mother. Carlitos is a nine-year-old boy living with his ill grandmother. He is a self-sufficient and brave young man, who decides to leave Mexico illegally after his grandmother’s death to look for his mother. Josefina and Manuel are the boy’s greedy aunt and uncle who want to take custody over Carlitos to steal the money that Rosario sends to her son every month. As the boy searches for his mother, he encounters his father, Oscar Aguilar Pons, who can be characterized as unaccountable as he fails to keep his word and take Carlitos to Los Angeles. In summary, family relationships are rather complicated; however, the situation is rather frequent for Mexican families.

Family Processes

Family processes are controversial, as, from an American point of view, they are rather disturbed, while they are normal for Mexican realities. The sociocultural aspect of the processes is adequate, as the family members, especially Carlitos and his grandmother, feel like a part of a larger society, which is crucial according to Friedman et al. (2003). It can be seen explicitly during the birthday party when many friends come to celebrate the occasion. The environment is also peaceful, with the only exception of Josefina and Manuel, as they just wanted the money and Carlitos and his grandmother needed to protect against their emotional impact.

Even though effective communication exists between the boy and his grandmother, Carlitos and Rosario cannot always find ways to agree. At the beginning of the movie, mother and son talk on the phone arguing about Carlitos coming to the US. As for power, Rosario is the one in charge; however, there is no clearly defined process for the decision-making process, which is crucial for a normally functioning family (Friedman et al., 2003). Additionally, the family suffered from poor role distribution, as the mother had to work, while the grandmother was in charge of caring for Carlitos. Moreover, the boy did not go to school and worked instead. However, even though a working nine-year-old may seem unusual for an American, in the Mexican village, it is normal, as depicted in the movie. In short, even though the family processes seem disturbed, the phenomenon is usual for the country.


Even though the family has mutual values in most cases, there are some differences in what Carlitos and Rosario consider important. The mother believes that the financial part of life is more important than the emotional well-being of a child. She chooses to leave her son to be able to support his material needs. At the same time, Carlitos cares more for the family, as he takes care of his grandmother and wants his mother to be near him. Such differences in values contribute to psychological instability of individuals.

Socialization and Child Rearing

The socialization of the family is normal; however, the childrearing process is heavily influenced by culture. The grandmother of the family has to look after Carlitos, and the mother works. The child grows to become self-sufficient very early, which is typical for Mexican families with low income. In short, while this aspect may seem disturbed, the situation is common in Mexico.

Healthcare Beliefs and Practices

Healthcare beliefs and practices are the same as in the majority of families. The grandmother is treated with medications prescribed by doctors. This fact leads to an understanding that family members believe in modern medicine and its methods.


The family members demonstrate adequate ability to adapt to the outside world. The mother decides to work after the father leaves the family. Carlitos learns to care for himself and his ill grandmother. According to Friedman et al. (2003), adjustments that one family member needs to make in his or her behavior generate healthy adjustments in the whole family. In short, the family seems rather flexible and can adapt to the changing realities.

Assessment of Development or Functional Competency

It is beneficial to compare the processes to the Beavers system model to acquire a better appreciation of the family well-being. The family members take personal responsibility and are emotionally secure which is a basic family competence (Beavers & Hampson, 1990). They demonstrate a high level of flexibility, power is shared, and emotional expression is allowed. Therefore, even though role distribution is heavily disturbed, taking into consideration the cultural aspect, the level of family development is adequate.


The family depicted in Under the Same Moon may seem heavily disturbed at first glance. However, taking into consideration the ethnic traits, the family members demonstrate a high level of competence through responsibility and ability to adapt to new situations. The movie is an excellent example of a non-traditional family structure that still has a high level of functional development.


Beavers, W. R., & Hampson, R. B. (1990). Successful families: Assessment and intervention. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.

Friedman, M. M., Bowden, V. R., & Jones, E. G. (2003). Family nursing: Research, theory, and practice (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Riggen, P. (Director). (2007). Under the same moon [Film]. Hollywood, CA: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Cultural Family Assessment in "Under the Same Moon" Film." July 11, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cultural-family-assessment-in-under-the-same-moon-film/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Cultural Family Assessment in "Under the Same Moon" Film'. 11 July.

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