Every once in a while when you’re looking for a movie you come up with a gem that has eluded you: Bless me Ultima is such a movie. Director Carl Franklin’s film, based on a book by Rudulfo Anaya, abounds in contradictions: Life and death, good and evil, heaven and hell, Catholicism and Atheism ─ just to name a few.
The coming of age story takes place in New Mexico near the end of World War II and is told through the eyes of a six-year old Hispanic boy by the name of Antonio (Luke Ganalon). Luke, and his mother and father, live on a desolate farm and are barely subsisting on their crops. Antonio’s three older brothers are returning from the war, but they have no desire to live and work on the homestead. An old woman, Ultima (Miriam Colon), who is a healer, comes to live with the family. Ultima and Antonio have a special connection and soon Ultima is teaching Antonio about the herbs and potions that she uses for healing. When Antonio’s uncle comes to Ultima to ask for help for his dying brother, she goes to his house and mixes up an elixir which saves his life. The brother had been cursed by three sisters who are witches and Ultima is well aware of their demonic activities. To counter any future evil spells, Ultima creates three little dolls and performs some type of voodoo on them. As a result of this, one of the sisters dies.
The father of the dead girl, Narciso (Castulo Guerra), is now convinced that Ultima is a witch, and he gathers a mob armed with firearms and clubs to come and seize her from the house. Antonio’s father (Benito Martinez) manages to repel throng, but the wheels are now in motion for a showdown.
Bless Me Ultima is a curious blend of Catholicism and Mother Earth spiritualism. Antonio attends Catholic school and has many questions for Ultima, and she responds by teaching the boy that not all answers come from the church. Despite a few violent scenes the movie is uplifting. I highly recommend it.
My Rating: 4 of 5 Blessings