Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Magdalena’s (Emily Rios) 15th birthday – the day she transits from girlhood to womanhood for Mexican women – is fast approaching. But, for the budding young lady, that transition comes upon her far sooner than she thought when she discovers that she is pregnant by her boyfriend, Herman (J.R. Cruz). Now a woman, she must face the scorn of her father in “Quinceanera.”

The title refers to the coming-of-age celebration that teenaged Mexican girls look forward to on their pivotal birthday. “Quinceanera” begins with the lavish party being held for Magdalena’s cousin, Eileen (Alicia Sixtos), where an elaborate Hummer limousine transports her, her ladies in waiting and their escorts to her party. Everyone has a wonderful time until Eileen’s rejected brother, Carlos (Jesse Garcia), crashes the party and is thrown out by his father. Carlos, who came out of the closet with his family, was forced to leave their home and moved in with his kindly and wise Uncle Tio Tomas (Chalo Gonzalez).

Magdalena, after a innocent quasi-sexual interlude with Herman, discovers, to her horror, that she is pregnant. She tries to hide the fact from her parents but can’t hide the results, a swelling belly, of her virgin pregnancy. Her mom (Araceli Guzman-Rico) is sympathetic to her plight and believes her daughter when she tells her that nothing happened between her and Herman. But, her father (Jesus Castanos-Chima) doesn’t believe his daughter and disowns her. She, too, moves in with Uncle Tio.

Quinceanera” is a sweet coming-of-age story that is a slice of young Latino life set in the Echo Park neighborhood in East L.A. Magdalena is an honest and loving girl confused about how she became pregnant without intercourse. She, Carlos and Uncle Tio make an odd little family but one that supports each other without question. The story follows Magdalena as she takes responsibility for her plight and, when her uncle is evicted from his home of twenty-plus years, works hard to find them a new home.

This is not an action-packed film that has our heroine battling for truth and justice. It is a down-to-earth tale of growing up and directors/screenwriters Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland do a solid job in telling it. They are helped in their effort with good performances by the young cast and a believable, heartfelt story. Despite Magdalena’s ordeal, Quinceanera” is an upbeat yarn that presents her as an uncorrupted girl who stands by her claim that she and Herman didn’t “do anything.” Chalo Gonzalez, as Uncle Tio, adds a wonderful dimension as the neighborhood icon that everyone knows and loves.

The behind-the-camera crew helps to make “Quinceanera” a teen flick with such a positive message that I am sad to say that it will likely reach only a very limited market demographic. Unfortunately, it will be limited to Latino audiences and the art house crowd. This is a shame since it is the kind of film that, if marketed properly, could easily cross language boundaries and resonate with teens and tweenies everywhere. It would be a lovely thing if it could break in to the local multiplex. I wish that its positive message helps make it more broadly available when it breaks out in DVD. I can only hope and give it a B.

Laura did not see this film.

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