(1995)4Michael CostelloGregory Nava's sprawling multi-generational saga of 60 years in the life of a Mexican family living in the U.S. is a tumultuous, funny, and moving experience. As the film traces the Sanchez family's history from the arrival of patriarch José Eduardo Lopez Rojas in Los Angeles through the gang wars and Salvadoran death squads of the 1980s, Nava focuses on the constant struggle of the immigrants to be accepted in their new country while retaining a pride in their ethnic identity. Although the film is at times sentimental with a plot that verges on soap opera, it's impossible not to be swept up in the lives of characters that are written and played with such passion and complexity. Dwelling on the divergent character types within José's family unit, from the hotheaded Chuco (Esai Morales) to the tortured Jimmy (Jimmy Smits) to the calmer Paco (Edward James Olmos), a writer who functions as the film's narrator, Nava rings plangent changes on a universally familiar theme. The film is also blessed by the plenary talents of cinematographer Ed Lachman (The Limey , Erin Brockovich ), whose lyrical use of light is one of its great pleasures.