By Jose Cruz
To say A Better Life is a film about immigrants would be an understatement. From what I’ve heard from the grapevine in LA, that was never the intention of Director Chris Weitz (About a Boy, Twilight). In a sea of summer action blockbusters it is a calming joy to find this gem of a movie that explores the generational gaps between a father and son and a parent’s desire to create a better future for his child. I’m told that Weitz got to make this film as a “thank you” from the studio for his past success. A Better life is a tribute to his father, a German Immigrant, set in the reality of the current struggle of a mixed status family.
Carlos (Demian Bichir, from Weeds) plays the immigrant father who works as a day-laborer in LA. Carlos sleeps on the couch of his small apartment giving his son, Luis (Jose Julian), the bedroom so he can get a good night sleep and do well in high school. Wanting to create a better opportunity for Luis, Carlos gets a loan from his sister so he can purchase a pickup truck and start his own business. Just when you think things have turned around for Carlos, his truck is stolen by another laborer he was trying to help. Not being able to turn to the police because of his status, Carlos and his son begin a quest to get the truck back. How do you track down a single undocumented Mexican in LA?
A Better Life is a powerful movie and Bichir and Julian are masterfully directed by Weitz. There are great moments where you see the generational and cultural divide between immigrant father and son. Yet the film never seems to preach, and that is why it is so good. Bichir portrays an unflinching quiet resolve throughout the movie and we find the beauty in his character displayed in moments where he is faced with ethical dilemmas. While Carlos is never given an easy way out, the film shines when through his actions he demonstrates to his son what it means to be a man.
If you can watch A Better Life and not feel moved, you have no soul. This film is a testament to every parent with a “don’t cry for me, I’m doing this for my child” attitude. At the end of our screening the audience erupted in applause and you could visibly see how people had been moved. If you haven’t seen it, you should. As for me, I think I’m gonna give Dad a call.
A Better Life is currently playing in LA and opens in Chicago on July 8.
Rated PG-13 for some violence, language and brief drug use. Runtime: 1 hr. 38 min