Bless Me, Ultima


Generally favorable reviews - based on 17 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 17
  2. Negative: 0 out of 17

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Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Feb 20, 2013
    Carl Franklin's film is true to the tone and spirit of the book. It is patient and in no hurry. It allows a balanced eye for the people in its hero's family who tug him one way and another.
  2. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Feb 21, 2013
    A deeply satisfying feat of storytelling, Bless Me, Ultima makes a difficult task look easy. It combines innocence and experience, the darkness and wonder of life, in a way that is not easy to categorize but a rich pleasure to watch.
  3. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Feb 22, 2013
    Writer-director Carl Franklin offers up a tone of heightened reverence that weighs down the material, but there are small, lovely moments when the magic realism approaches the magical.
  4. Reviewed by: Noel Murray
    Feb 20, 2013
    The movie is at its best when it’s at its smallest: when Ganalon quietly watches Colon coax a dying young man into vomiting up his “curse,” or when Ganalon is getting laughed out of his classroom because he has a burrito in his lunchbox instead of a sandwich.
  5. Reviewed by: Stephen Farber
    Feb 21, 2013
    This material would never have attracted a major studio, so Christy Walton — heir to the Wal-Mart fortune — financed the picture herself, not because of any desire to become a movie mogul but simply because of her passion for the novel. She allowed the filmmakers to work without major stars or obvious commercial hooks added to the story. Although the film doesn’t always sustain dramatic impact, its fidelity to the spirit of the novel is impressive.
  6. Reviewed by: Peter Debruge
    Feb 19, 2013
    Offsetting stiff acting with rich atmosphere, visuals and music, this long-awaited picture hits the novel's key plot points without denying its spiritual soul.
  7. Reviewed by: Marjorie Baumgarten
    Feb 20, 2013
    Although Bless Me, Ultima can feel a bit overstuffed, it’s an honest and naturalistic kids’ story about growing up Mexican-American.
  8. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Feb 21, 2013
    What might have made Bless Me, Ultima more powerful would have been additional scenes with its mystical title character.
  9. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Feb 21, 2013
    Obviously a labor love, and its very existence in a godforsaken marketplace is a minor miracle.
  10. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Feb 21, 2013
    The results are pretty, and sometimes beautiful. They're also a tad stiff, and the dialogue and voice-over narration sometimes has the ring of a scrupulously faithful adaptation.
  11. Reviewed by: Ernest Hardy
    Feb 26, 2013
    Volumes are said about class, assimilation, and the ways the assimilated sometimes shame and scar those who haven't shorn themselves of ethnic or racial signifiers. There is pungency in this shorthand, in these sketches that are richly evocative without saying too much or giving too little. You can't help but wish the movie had more of it.
  12. Reviewed by: Peter Hartlaub
    Feb 21, 2013
    The film often stumbles in translation, trying to define too many characters in too little time.
  13. Reviewed by: Connie Ogle
    Feb 21, 2013
    The film isn’t overlong. But it tries to fit so many themes into its brief running time — that it merely touches on most conflicts instead of exploring them in depth or with any delicacy.
  14. 50
    It’s an engaging yarn, set in a place, a time and among a people rarely represented on the big screen. But “Ultima” is a poetic novel that becomes prosaic on the screen.
  15. Reviewed by: Glenn Heath Jr.
    Feb 18, 2013
    The film's interest in social themes remains background fodder within a far more generic good-versus-evil narrative.
  16. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Feb 22, 2013
    Unfortunately, Franklin isn't quite as successful at capturing the depth of the traditions for which Anaya's source material is so well known.
  17. Reviewed by: Randy Cordova
    Feb 22, 2013
    The lyrical book is filled with touches of magical realism. On the other hand, the movie is sorely lacking in both magic and realism. It’s all very empty and blah.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 11 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 6
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 6
  3. Negative: 2 out of 6
  1. Feb 26, 2013
    If you're tired of the usual Hollywood loud special effects films, or the extended bad sit-com movies, this might be an option for you. SlowIf you're tired of the usual Hollywood loud special effects films, or the extended bad sit-com movies, this might be an option for you. Slow paced and dialogue driven, spiritual, and completely watchable. The success of the entire movie depends on child actor Luke Ganalon, and he does an excellent job in the title role. One day an elderly medicine woman (a "Curandera") arrives at young Antonio's home to spend the final days of her life, and there is an instant bond between the two. She teaches him the ways of her healing and magic, and the special relationship Man shares with the earth. Curanderas are both revered and feared in their culture, and she is seen as an evil witch by some. The only problem I had with the movie is that it is narrated by the older Antonio in parts, and it is never explained who he has become as an adult. Still, a well done film. Full Review »
  2. Feb 23, 2013
    Picked this movie on a whim. Glad that I did. Convincing performances, although Castulo Guerra's portrayal of Tenorio seemed a little over thePicked this movie on a whim. Glad that I did. Convincing performances, although Castulo Guerra's portrayal of Tenorio seemed a little over the top at times. I thought the storyline was pretty taut, and the themes of spirituality and justice are played well. Would not be surprised if this made many critics' top 10 lists for 2013. Full Review »
  3. Aug 25, 2014
    The film poster says that it was based on the controversial novel. I don't know anything about that, but I feel it was referred like that forThe film poster says that it was based on the controversial novel. I don't know anything about that, but I feel it was referred like that for the marketing purpose. Anyway, it was a good, an unexpectedly good movie that came my way. Being a fan of the kids movie I loved it very much. Not only that, the diverged story with often the plot that meets fantasy and reality at a certain quantity was told in a great quality. It might be a story of the kid, but many stuffs were cruel and violent that I doubt does it fit for children to watch. As it set during just after the second world war, I think the harsh side of the story was extremely essential. And also being true to the book.

    The story was narrated from the character Antonio who takes us back to his childhood days. When he was a 7-year-old kid, he lived in a small village of the New Mexico. He was raised in a farmer family who was well respected in the town. One day an old lady called Ultima comes to join his family to live forth. Soon Antonio and Ultima begin to have a close relationship. As a medicine woman she teaches everything about mending and curing. And as a wise woman she resolves Antonio's doubts over the good and the bad. As a sudden a conflict between Ultima and a witch family from the town begin to take a wing. As a little boy nothing much he can do than witnessing which brings the end of his narration.

    ‘‘A man's destiny must unfold itself like a flower.
    With only the sun, earth and water, making it blossom.’’

    It was from the first book of the four book series. And I am eager to know more about Antonio and his story of the different section of life. Hope they make those remaining 3 movies. This is a coming-of-age story and about a boy who is interested to become a priest which is well backed by his family. At the early age itself, he begins to learn the lessons with the help of the experienced hand. Kind of incredible journey of a little smart boy. The world he sees through his eyes was the story told about the human nature that collide between good and bad. The cast was not recognizable, probably I am seeing all of them for the first time. But the performances were very good. Apart from the boy and an old woman the remaining cast was also good. The movie was shot in the lovely places, captured beautiful dry landscapes, but there were a couple of scenes in the rain. Overall, a great movie, far from exhibiting the existing culture, but conflict remained the same. I feel like I must appreciate author as well this filmmaker to give such a nice movie.
    Full Review »