El Norte engages the audience emotionally in the lives of Enrique and Rosa because their plight is presented on a narrative, personal level. The characters are given warmth by the script, and the actors are capable of bringing that warmth to life. The family bond between the main characters is something that virtually anyone can identify with, and this helps the audience to vicariously experience the emotional traumas of those characters. The film could have been made differently and still gotten the same message .across. For example, it could have been produced as a documentary of sorts, tracing the struggles of its characters in an objective, matter-of-fact way. However, the message would not have been quite as effective if the personal element in the story of Enrique and Rosa had been removed. Because their plight is personalized, it becomes more meaningful to the viewer, who is able to identify with the universality of the emotions being portrayed. Thus, El Norte provides an excellent dramatic presentation of a serious contemporary social problem, and it does so in a way that vividly brings its message to life.
Kael, Pauline. "The Current Cinema." New Yorker (20 Feb. 1984): 113-115.
Thomas, Kevin. "'El Norte' Probes Plight of Illegal Immigrants." Los Angeles Times (8 Mar. 1984): VI, 1+.
In their old country, despite the invasion of hostile soldiers, Enrique and Rosa were accustomed to sticking together and helping friends and family members out. Their experience in America, however, "lays bare the treacherousness of the American dream, where, in the struggle for survival, the individual is tempted increasingly to think only of himself" (Thomas 1). Unlike life in the Guatemalan village, the youngsters in America must work hard to earn just enough money to survive. In the course of the film, Enrique begins identifying with the values of the American culture. Thus, when Nacha confronts him with the news that Rosa is dying, and Enrique answer