A Showtime original film directed by actress Salma Hayek, The Maldonado Miracle is a quietly engaging but ultimately obvious and sentimental film. It's not a bad film, really, but it's not a particularly memorable one. It suffers from predictability, bland writing, and occasionally overplayed melodrama, and yet it has its strengths, not least of which is a trio of interesting performances.
The story takes place in a tiny, sleepy, spiritually starving border town called San Ramos. Jose (Eddy Martin), an 11-year-old illegal Mexican immigrant, has just snuck into town, on a quest to find his lost father, following the death in Mexico of his mother. Suffering from a knife wound, Jose hides out in the church rafters with his dog, and the boy may or may not be responsible for the freshly discovered blood that seems to be dripping from the eyes of a Christ statue, situated directly beneath the rafters. A local woman goes into hysterics at the sight, and soon the town and the entire region are obsessed by the "miracle," as thousands descend on the tiny church to offer up their prayers. Whatever the source of the blood, San Ramos is in the midst of a spiritual rebirth.
Conflicted Father Russell (Peter Fonda) observes the "miracle" with reserved judgment, considering that his faith has been rocked by the gradual death of the town up to this point. Over at the town diner, lonely waitress Maisie (Mare Winningham) befriends Jose and finds herself an unwitting benefactor of the town's newfound glory. Her frequent customer Cruz (Ruben Blades), a local bar proprietor, takes a second glance at his old friend Maisie and finds himself falling for her quiet desperation. Other characters begin undergoing similar transformations. All this (melo)drama is set to the backdrop of the Maldonado miracle, and a lot of it comes across as too easy. The story is by no means subtle.
However, there's a certain joy to be had just observing these actors work. Winningham is particularly fine (as always) as the film's tortured soul, and Blades is a perfect, shuffling counterpoint to that. I also valued Fonda as the undecided priest, who understands the miracle of the boy while casting a skeptic's eye toward the bleeding statue.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
Showtime presents The Maldonado Miracle in a nice full-frame transfer of the film's original 1.33:1 televised presentation. Detail is adequate, but you'll notice a vague softness throughout, particularly in backgrounds, which are indistinct. Bright scenes fare the best as far as detail is concerned—outdoor scenes look wonderful. Colors seem accurate to the palette. Not a bad presentation, but not one that will knock your socks off, either.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The disc's Dolby Digital 5.1 track doesn't offer any aural fireworks, but it's an engaging track. This is a quiet film, so I appreciated that the presentation offered strong dialog. Surround activity is limited to ambience.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
The primary extra is a scene-specific Director Commentary by Salma Hayek. This is an entertaining listen, even though she gushes repeatedly about how wonderful her cast and crew are. Perhaps I merely enjoyed listening to her beautiful voice. She comments on all aspects of the filming process—from the music to the cinematography—and she comes off as rather sharp. I laughed out loud when she shared an anecdote about Edward Norton singing a piece of music for the film.
You also get brief Interviews with Salma Hayek, Peter Fonda, Eddy Martin, and Mare Winningham.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
The Maldonado Miracle is engaging mostly for the quality of its acting, and for a first-time film by Salma Hayek, it ain't half bad. The DVD offers a fun commentary but not much else.