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FRONTERA is a very absorbing drama effectively highlighting some of the issues regarding the crisis along the southern border of the United States. The movie mostly takes a balanced approach to the issue of illegal immigration, with a strong Christian, moral worldview, but that’s slightly mitigated by plenty of strong gratuitous foul language, an implied rape scene and some Romantic, liberal, politically correct elements. So, the movie isn’t perfect, but it’s powerful, heart-rending and sometimes insightful.
The movie opens on a Mexican family in Northern Mexico. Miguel is a farm worker, and his wife, Paulina, is pregnant with another baby. So, Miguel decides to illegally cross the border into the United States to find temporary work to support his family. His father-in-law arranges for Miguel to travel with another man, Jose. Miguel thinks Jose is too careless and nonchalant, but what can he do? He needs a companion to travel with him.
After just crossing the border into Arizona, Miguel and Jose run into, Livy, the compassionate wife of the former sheriff, Roy. Riding her horse, Livy gives them more water and a blanket to share. She also points them in the direction of the highway where they can pick up some work. Meanwhile, Roy waits at the farm, for Livy’s return.
Miguel and Jose continue on their way. Unknown to them, three teenage boys are hiding on a bluff nearby. One of the boys challenges another boy to shoot his father’s fancy rifle toward the two Mexicans to scare them. Livy hears the shots and rides quickly to the sound of the shots. When her horse nears Miguel, the boy on the bluff fires another shot to hit Miguel’s water bottle. Livy’s horse rears up, she falls off, and her head hits a large stone, giving Livy a fatal blow.
Roy hears the shots too. He drives his truck quickly to the sound of the shots, only to find Miguel holding onto the reins of Livy’s horse. Roy thinks Miguel was trying to steal Livy’s horse, but Miguel runs away, and Roy decides not to shoot Miguel with the gun in his hand. Of course, Roy is devastated to find that his wife is now dead after hitting her head.
Several days later, the police manage to pick up Miguel and Jose. They hold Miguel for first degree murder, even though Miguel tells them the truth about what happened. They clearly don’t believe his story.
Meanwhile, Roy is upset that the new sheriff and his men have yet to comb the area of the shooting. So Roy decides to comb the area himself, whereupon he finds the rifle shell casings and a couple of the slugs. Miguel’s story is beginning to look like the truth, but the new sheriff refuses to release Miguel.
Having not heard from her husband, Paulina decides to pay some men to take her across the border. The men are evil, however, and they take advantage of Paulina and the other people trying to cross the border. Paulina’s journey becomes her worst nightmare.
Will Paulina escape these villains? Will Roy find the teenagers whose stupid, reckless behavior caused his wife’s death?
FRONTERA at times risks going off the rails, because it tries to tell two or three stories and tries to deal with too many issues concerning America’s broken immigration system. Several things help save it, however. First, the stories are all really dramatic. Second, the acting (which is led by Ed Harris as Roy, Michael Pena as Miguel and Eva Longoria as Paulina) is really good. Third, the issues are woven expertly throughout the plot details. Finally, everything is linked together by the movie’s Christian, moral worldview. This positive worldview gives FRONTERA a compelling and ultimately inspiring vision that’s both emotionally powerful and intellectually stimulating. Also, without giving anything away, at one point, Roy comes up with a capitalist solution that will encourage at least some of the Mexicans to keep off his land while also reducing the need and desire for illegal immigration along his section of the border. This part of the movie is actually pretty cool as well as pretty creative. FRONTERA also shows how evil men take advantage of the Hispanics, Asians and Muslims who cross America’s border illegally. By doing so, it shows that the immigration and border control systems of both the United States and Mexico are corrupt and not doing anyone any favors, to say the least. Surprisingly, the movie even indicates how Muslim terrorists might use America’s porous southern border to sneak into the country.
Despite its positive aspects, FRONTERA does have an excessive amount of gratuitous foul language, including some strong obscenities and profanities. There’s also strong violence, including an implied rape committed by the evil immigrant smugglers. The smugglers also force the men and women under their control to strip down to their underwear while they hold them for ransom in an empty garage in the American suburbs.
Finally, some liberal, politically correct content undercut FRONTERA’s more conservative elements. For example, the movie clearly sides with Miguel, even when he crosses the border illegally. Thus, it has a Romantic, liberal view of such illegal activity. In reality, of course, illegal immigrants aren’t only breaking the law; they’re also cheating by cutting in line. Also, during his investigation, Roy discovers that an unknown man is actually shooting some illegal immigrants dead because he’s apparently upset about the American government’s inaction in stopping so many people from illegally crossing the border. This is the one part of the movie that really rings totally false, even though it gives the story an added kick at one point.
Mostly because of the foul language and the brutality of the immigrant smugglers, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for FRONTERA. It should be noted that “frontera” means border in Spanish. It can also mean frontier. Both connotations seem to be present in this movie.

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