Sure it’s fun to grab a tub of popcorn and enjoy a peli like Cars 2 or Bad Teacher. But amidst the summer blockbusters, there’s also another important film that hit theatres this past weekend and we’re hoping it doesn’t fall beneath the cracks. A Better Life is poignant, moving, and a definite must-see for anyone craving a little substance with their movie-going experience.
Helmed by Twilight: New Moon director Chris Weitz, it’s about as far removed from the teen vampire vibe as you can get. This film carries a message about immigration, la cultura, and most importantly, the love of a family.
We’ve got to hand it to Weitz, he hired an incredibly talented all-Latino cast. And the fact that they are mostly unknowns actually works in the movie’s favor. Star Demián Bichir literally “becomes” East LA gardener Carlos Galindo and can make the character even more believable since he’s not associated with any other famous roles.
Similarly, José Julián does a fantastic job with his big screen debut. PlayingLuis, the first generation Mexican-American son of Carlos, he’s able to express the sensitivity, hotheadedness and naivety you’d expect from an angst-filled teenager. The rest of cast does a great job as well with their respective roles, including Piolín in a “radio cameo.”
But performances are just part of what makes this movie work. The writing and Chris Weitz’ directing are essential components that will definitely keep audiences engaged. Bichir’s Carlos character is portrayed as humble, good-natured, and hell-bent on providing A Better Life for his son.
Sadly, forces beyond his control prevent him from achieving that goal. Carlos‘ wife has walked out on the family, money troubles constantly emerge, and being undocumented puts the hard-working gardener in constant fear of deportation. Add to that a double cross from one of his co-workers, and you’ve got plenty of tear-jerking moments.
In the beginning, it’s clear that father and son have a distant relationship. But as time passes they grow closer, especially after Luis sees how hard Carlos is working for the family. Yes there are plenty of immigration issues strewn throughout, but that’s not the heart of the movie. The great thing about this film are the many emotional layers and the ultimate struggle each character must endure to lead A Better Life.
Bottom line: It’s almost a shame that A Better Life is being released right now. Had this film come out closer to Christmas, we could easily see it on severalAcademy Award lists. The performances are fantastic, the story is moving, and the message is definitely one that will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.
By Michael Lopez