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.