Bless Me, Ultima is the best movie opening this weekend, which naturally means that it’s only viewable in very, very limited release (I’m talking to you, New York and California denizens). It is the coming-of-age story of a young man who questions everything that he is told, especially when it comes to the things most children simply accept as being true from the time they first gain cognition: God, religion, the world, and their place within it.
Antonio is a young boy growing up in the outskirts of New Mexico. He doesn’t know much about the world beyond the rural surroundings he calls home. But then one day, an elderly folk healer named Ultima comes to spend her final days with his family. She is not just the woman who helped deliver him into this world, she is also the mysterious figure who understands things that Antonio is fascinated and stymied by. While her life is ending, his is only beginning because of her mere presence.
The others in the town fear and hate Ultima. To many, she is a witch who should be chastised and chased away. The movie, like the book upon which is based, is blatantly anti-establishment (some would say anti-Catholic), which means that it will make many a viewer uncomfortable. But then that is the whole point of this exercise anyway: to show that the reclaiming of the self begins with the planting of doubt – and whether that doubt is the result of something internal or someone outside – there is no peace until one comes to terms with those questions.