A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that My Family (Mi Familia) is about a hardworking and loving Mexican-American family has a lot of adult material. Characters are partially nude in passionate love scenes, and there are several violent moments including a bloody shooting, a knife fight that ends in a fatality, and a graphic childbirth scene that ends in a mother's death, her body shown briefly in the morgue. There's a lot of cursing in both English and Spanish; one character drinks and another sells marijuana.
What's the story?
The sweeping saga MY FAMILY follows a Mexican-American family through three generations, beginning in the 1930s. José Sanchez (Jacob Vargas) arrives in California from Mexico and lands a job as a gardener to wealthy families. He meets and marries Maria (Jennifer Lopez), and they have six children. They are separated early in the movie when a pregnant Maria is unjustly deported, and her perilous journey home with an infant son sets up a haunting, mystical thread that runs throughout the movie. Paco (Edward James Olmos), the eldest son (and the film's narrator), is an aspiring writer. Irene marries and opens a restaurant with her husband. Toni (Constance Marie) becomes a nun, but later shocks her parents when she finds her true calling in life. Guillermo, or "Memo," becomes a lawyer. Two sons emerge as more flagrant rebels. In the 1958 segment, Chucho (Esai Morales) sells drugs and periodically fights with a rival gang leader. Jimmy (Jimmy Smits) is the youngest of the family and the heart of the film. As an adult in 1978, he's an ex-con who follows in Chucho's footsteps and harbors a deep hurt over a tragedy he witnessed as a boy. His world changes when he marries Isabel, a maid in danger of being deported back to El Salvador.
Is it any good?
This excellent movie explores the dynamics of Mexican-American families and culture in a way that's not often presented in mainstream cinema. It welcomes viewers inside this tight-knit clan with a mixture of drama and humor, tragedy and romance, and also examines issues familiar to immigrants and their families. (One recurring theme explores how José and Maria's first-generation children respond to the traditions, cultural values, and ideals of their parents.) Ultimately, however, it transcends its ethnicity and is simply a story about family.
Occasionally weighed down with melodrama, My Family (Mi Familia) is nonetheless moving and well-executed, with an epic, almost Godfatheresque feel. (Francis Ford Coppola had a hand in its production, and that influence shows, particularly in a wedding scene.) The eclectic soundtrack, which includes Mexican folk music, Los Lobos, and Pedro Infante, captures the film's spirit, and two key scenes use dancing to great effect: Chucho teaches a group of kids to mambo in a lively moment, and Isabel shows Jimmy how to dance in a scene that's unforgettable for its chemistry, its sheer joy, and the way Smits' character thaws before our eyes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about where their own ancestors are from and how long the family has been here.
How does the family in My Family (Mi Familia) resemble your own?
Does the film devote too much time to the characters of Chucho and Jimmy, perhaps perpetuating certain stereotypes?
- In theaters: May 3, 1997
- On DVD or streaming: April 6, 2004
- Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Jimmy Smits, Lupe Ontiveros
- Director: Gregory Nava
- Studio: New Line
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 126 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong language, some graphic violence and a scene of sexuality.
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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