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Return to 2006 Films

Index of 2006

An Inconvenient Truth
Big Bad Swim
Brokeback Mountain
Cinderella Man
The Departed
The DaVinci Code
Eron: The Smartest
Guys in the Room

Good Night and
Good Luck

Half Nelson
History of Violence
Hotel Rwanda
Little Miss Sunshine
Journey from the Fall
March of the Penguins
Million Dollar Baby
Prairie Home Companion
Star Wars III:
Revenge of the Sith

Thank You for Smoking
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
The Sea Inside
United 93
War of the Worlds
Walk the Line
World Trade Center

A Review by Tom Condon, OP
(St. Martin Province)

Film Synopsis
In the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, 14-year-old Magdalena learns that she is pregnant. Magdalena's great-granduncle and gay cousin take her in after she is kicked out of her religious family home, and together they all try to shake off the prejudices that beset them.

In the Mexican tradition, a quinceanera is a celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday. It marks the passage from girl to woman, with a religious ceremony and party. The film Quinceanera opens with the celebration of young Emily’s quinceanera in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Everyone is having a good time at the party, until the appearance of Carlos, Emily’s brother. We don’t know why Carlos is not welcome at this family celebration. Carlos’ father fights with him, then throws him out of the reception hall. Magdalena, Emily’s cousin and daughter of the storefront minister, takes it all in as she plans for her own quinceanera in a year.

As Magdalena’s quinceanera approaches, her only concern is whether her father will rent a Hummer limousine for the day. Things become much more complicated when it is discovered that Magdalena is pregnant. Her parents are horrified. Magdalena’s father tells her that she has not only brought shame to her family, but to the church as well. Despite evidence to the contrary, Magdalena insists that she cannot be pregnant, since she has never “been with a boy.” Magdalena packs her suitcase and leaves home in disgrace. She goes to the small house of her great-uncle, Tio Tomas, who welcomes her. Carlos, whose conflict with his family stems from being gay, has also taken refuge with Tio Tomas. In the meantime, a gay Anglo couple purchases the property on which Tio Tomas’ house and move into a garage apartment behind Tio Tomas’ house. They meet handsome young Carlos and immediately invite him to their housewarming party.

Quinceanera is a wonderful film that successfully interweaves many elements. At the heart of the story are the young exiles, Magdalena and Carlos. Will they ever be re-united with their families and communities, or will they need to find their own way? At first Carlos resents Magdalena’s presence in the small house. Gradually, however, they form their own family under the accepting leadership of Tio Tomas. Tio Tomas stands in contrast to the middle generation of the parents, who are scandalized by the two young people. Another strong element in Quinceanera is the cultural climate. The tight-knit Mexican-American community of Echo Park is threatened with Anglos moving in, represented by Jim and Dave.

Tio Tomas becomes the pivotal character in the film. He is a figure of wisdom and compassion, and has the respect and love of all. Carlos speaks the truth known by all when he declares Tio Tomas a saint. Through unexpected circumstances, Tio Tomas is the agent of reconciliation, reuniting the divided family. Magdalena’s pregnancy is also declared to be truly a milagro (miracle). The film that begins with celebration also ends with celebration.

Quinceanera is astute in its understanding of community. Community is a necessity if individuals are to grow and thrive. Yet we also see that community is never easy. Elements of scandal rock the community. Those who are different are excluded. Then the entire community suffers. Forgiveness and understanding are necessary aspects of community. Community also needs its wisdom figures, like Tio Tomas, to teach the younger generations by word and example.

Quinceanera is a warm film, yet it doesn’t shy away from the conflict and tension that are part of every community’s story. The festivity of a celebration can explode with anger and violence. Young people will explore their sexuality and test limits, and Magdalena and Carlos are no exceptions. While not explicit, some scenes of violence and sexuality are still intense.

Written and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, Quinceanera is a wonderful exploration of community and culture. Although I am not familiar with any of the actors, they all do a fine job, particularly Chalo Gonzalez as Tio Tomas. I would not be at all surprised to hear a lot more from the talented young actors Emily Rios (Magdalena) and Jesse Garcia (Carlos).

At the close of this summer in which I have been privileged to see many independent films, I know I’ll fondly remember Quinceanera as one of the best.

Tom Condon, OP

MPAA Rating R - for language, some sexual content and drug use.

Quinceanera is a warm film, yet it doesn’t shy away from the conflict and tension that are part of every community’s story.

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