Movie Review: The Female Shaman in Bless Me, Ultima

The title to the movie, Bless Me, Ultima, carries the key to unlock its magic and riches, for blessings rain down on those who seek to understand. Isn’t that the ultimate goal of life on earth? Antonio’s older brothers return from the war changed men. Perhaps because his mother wants her youngest child to become a priest, Antonio’s mind is filled with questions about the nature of man, and of good and evil. It’s post-WWII in the United States, and many Americans have these questions in their hearts. You’ll find all the elements of a coming-of-age tale in this movie: violence and kindness, expectations crushed, hope renewed, mysteries revealed, love and humor.

And then there’s Ultima.

This is the only movie of which I’m aware that shows a female shaman guiding a young male in his perceptions. That alone sets it apart. The Tao Te Ching says, "A shaman has mastered Nature; not in the sense of conquering it, but of becoming it." Her gentleness, strength and knowledge is the same as Merlin’s in Sword in the Stone or Miyagi in the Karate Kid, but we’re not in a fantasy medieval world or in California.

We’re in real post-war New Mexico. She’s an elderly medicine woman, a curandera, who delivered young Antonio into the world and who has now come to live with his family. The movie doesn’t explore her past except to show that she is both revered and feared. She shows Antonio

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