A Better Life
by Elaine Hegwood Bowen
Film Monthly Home
Short Takes (Archived)
Small Screen Monthly
Behind the Scenes
New on DVD
Books on Film
What's Hot at the Movies This Week
A Better Life is an inspirational story about an undocumented immigrant and hardworking dad Carlos, played by Demian Bichir, who embarks on a physical and spiritual journey in order to reconnect with his teenage son and keep him from getting pulled into the local gang life.
This is Chris Weitz’s critically acclaimed drama that I wasn’t able to see at the theaters, and I’m glad it’s being released on DVD and Blu-ray™ by Summit Entertainment on October 18.
Carlos works as a landscaper and his son attends high school, even though he is prone to getting suspensions. But Carlos doesn’t have a driver’s license and he rides with another worker, who owns a run-down, rusty truck. One day as Carlos is working, the truck owner offers to sell him his truck, because he is retiring and moving back to Mexico. Carlos begs his sister for help with the money, but this purchase, which was to signal independence for Carlos and his son only opens up a can of worms and worry.
Carlos tries to pay it forward, and he offers to pick up a day laborer to work with him, also. But the guy steals his truck, which crushes Carlos and sends him spiraling down a road of shame, hurt and the underbelly of the migrant class in Los Angeles. Carlos is shocked by what he sees—many people living in close quarters, sleeping on top of each other. He has been fortunate enough to have a one-bedroom house for he and his son. So the living conditions for other immigrants is something with which he is unfamiliar.
Jose Julian plays the son Luis, and Luis is living in a dual world, that of being a struggling student in a school full of gang members and that of trying to please his father. Most days he’s either not in school, being suspended for some minor infraction or slowly being pressured into being “jumped into” a gang.
But the theft of the truck, which means his father can’t work and also means that his father is really unable to make money to pay his sister back for the loan, force the two to finally work together.
A Better Life is a tale of adversity and triumph against the odds and shares the choices that those populations “living on the edge” in the United States have to make, just to stay alive and one step ahead of the law. But the final lesson to be learned is the love that a father has for a son, when they both don’t have anyone but each other.
Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago, who also serves as a news editor for FilmMonthly.com
Got a problem? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org