My mom showed me this movie when I was about 17 years old, right around the same age as Ana, the main character, who is preparing to go to college. And I am glad she waited until I was older because I had the opportunity to appreciate every element that playwright Josefina Lopez worked into the story. This Latinx coming of age movie highlights many different topics, some negative while some positive, yet it did not get the recognition it deserves compared to current coming of age films.
Now, I won’t spoil it; I will just give a brief overview of the plot. Ana Garcia is a young Latina who commutes from her hardworking family in East Los Angeles to Beverly Hills to attend school. Her teacher, Mr. Guzman, convinces her to apply to college, mostly Columbia University in New York. Along with that, she has her overbearing mother, Carmen, who has her life planned for her, which includes getting married, having children, and working in the family factory with her and her older sister Estela. Oh, and there's a boy!
I am a young, Mexican American woman, and while I had a bit of a different life because of being in a military family, I was still aware that these are the lives of hardworking people who came to a different country for a better life for them and their children. The only coming of age films I had really seen were “Lady Bird”, “The Breakfast Club”, “The Edge of Seventeen”, “Now and Then”, and even more, but I think you can find one common theme with these movies. Not that these aren’t great films, but there seems to be a little lack of representation. This film shows the internal struggles of a young, Mexican American girl who is trying to listen to her heart but is being held back by traditional stereotypes that her mother is engraving in her head. But little does her mother know that everything that she is saying to Ana, everything that is happening around her, is only fueling her desire to leave home and become her own. Mexican culture is extremely traditional and conventional, but this movie represents the social change that young people are a part of, and Ana provokes her mother with her progressive views. This film gives a chance for Latinas to remember that they are much more than just a wife, they are more than just baby making factories, and more than their clothing size. A major theme of this film is self- love, confidence, and independence. Throughout the film, Ana is constantly berated by her mother who wants her to make herself beautiful for a man, but Ana loves herself and doesn’t let her mother's harsh words affect her. This film also highlights the gender stereotypes that are taught from early generations to create men and women who believe themselves to be “right”. These ideals include saving yourself until marriage, a woman needs to serve her husband, and more that give into machismo, or strong male pride.
I could go on and on about this movie and how it's just that good, but I’ll say that you just gotta watch it! I highly recommend this film as it is a great feel-good movie that just embraces individuality and independence. So, eat that flan girl, apply to that school, tell them boys off, and don’t ever be afraid to shake what your momma gave you!