In addition to focusing on Valens' music career, writer/director Luis Valdez spends time showing the tense relationship between Ritchie and his older brother Bob who is played excellently by Esai Morales. As Ritchie becomes famous Bob begins to resent him and that provides the film with some of its most powerful and heartbreaking scenes.
The film's other effective moments come between Ritchie and his girlfriend Donna. During their scenes together I felt that Valdez did a good job in showing what teenage romances must've been like back in the more innocent 1950's and how parents prejudices could interfere.
Last but not least is the film's great soundtrack. Ritchie Valens songs were redone for the film by the group Los Lobos. All of the instrumental music was provided by Carlos Santana and Miles Goodman. Also included are many other classic songs from the 50's.
The only small criticism I have of the film is that Valdez spends too much time in foreshadowing Valens' fate through dream sequences and references to his fear of flying. While it is documented that Ritchie did have a fear of flying I would imagine that he didn't talk about it as frequently as he does in the film.
Overall I think that La Bamba is a film about sticking to your dreams and the importance of family. I give this film a pretty strong recommendation. You don't even necessarily have to be a fan of 50's music to enjoy it. This is for those who enjoy small films that deal with the triumphs and struggles of everyday people.