Bless Me, Ultima | Movie review
The beloved best-seller gets a blandly earnest adaptation.
Published in 1972, Rudolfo Anaya’s quasi-memoir has become a staple of American classrooms and may be the premier work of Chicano literature. Such esteem will likely elude this stilted adaptation. Proof that novelistic isn’t always a positive attribute, Bless Me, Ultima plods aimlessly through the formative years of Antonio (Luke Ganalon), an inquisitive moppet growing up in 1940s New Mexico under the watchful eyes of the eponymous medicine woman (Miriam Colon). Supernatural elements disrupt the coming-of-age proceedings at random intervals; any sense of naturalism is compromised by the appearance of Castulo Guerra’s bellowing, eye-patched antagonist, whose witch daughters fall victim to Ultima’s karmic retribution. But who put the creative hex on Carl Franklin? Only the dark arts could account for the director of One False Move making such a hokey melodrama.