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Film Critic from BW Times. I was able to catch an advance screening of this film the other night and what a pleasure it was to experience. From the trailer, I pretty much felt like it was another one of those pessimistic man vs. the world stories, but stood corrected after realizing the depth and strength of such a wondrous story. Emphasizing one of the most pressing issues we have been facing, immigration, A Better Life not only captures the difficulty of the life of an immigrant but also the substantial bond between father and son. Powerful performances by both the main characters played by Demian Bichir and Jose Julian had so much chemistry that majestically captured a sincere sense of realism. The climactic scene between them near the end should be enough to get them Academy nominations. Another crucial figure that Director Christ Weitz executed nicely was the appearance of East and Lower areas of LA. I invited a friend who grew up in such area and he claimed that it was a true depiction; so much so that it brought back memories of his childhood! A Better Life is a complete recipe of amazing film-making, great storyline, and outstanding performances. It is not trying to be predictable or unpredictable, it knocks the audiences into life's difficulties by evoking aspects within our society. A must see cinematic adventure that will make you feel human.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
- Kirk Honeycutt, film critic for the Hollywood Reporter and host of the UCLA film course where we previewed this movie immediately compared it to Vittorio De Sicas's 1948 classic film The Bicycle Thief . In it a man and his son search for a stolen bicycle vital for his job. Fast forward to the present time as Carlos, an undocumented immigrant, (played by Mexican super star Demian Bichir) and his teenage son (played by Jose Lulian, an American making his acting debut ) are on a similar quest. They are searching for Carlos' stolen truck which he bought with borrowed funds to give him his one chance to make a decent living as a gardener and pay off his debts. Where the original Italian movie painted a picture of the poverty in post war Italy, this film provides an insight into life in East Los Angeles with its poverty, gangs, immigrants desperate for work and living with constant fear of being deported. It captures the poignancy and the dilemmas of hard working immigrant families in cities like Los Angeles who are trying to survive and provide a better life for their children while one step away from being arrested and sent home. The screenplay by Eric Eason is short on words but crystal clear in the emotional impact which it provides not only with the stark reality of the situation that the father and son are faced with but in the emotional struggle that each of them must feel. Bichir's performance could not be better as his face tells his story as does his words in both English and Spanish (with appropriate subtitles). Veteran director Chris Weitz teamed with award winning Spanish cinema photographer Javier Aguirresarobe to put together a realistic vision of the characters and environment which was filmed in 69 different locations in Los Angeles. Despite the effectiveness of the film, there are no clear villains and no new calls for action. While there may be a morsel of hope there is also the depressing possibility of a never ending line of people with crushed dreams. The film, itself, is an amazingly powerful and authentic glimpse into the human story that is part of the "intractable immigration issue." The emotional pull precludes over intellectualizing. (2011)
I like how Chris Weitz kept the focus on the characters and avoided the usual politics of the subject matter. This movie kept the audience riveted to the screen without resorting to usual polemics found in similar subject films. Personally I think this movie is closer to "El Norte" than "The Bicycle Thief", maybe a mix of the two but still authentic. Superb performances by most of the cast including Demian Bichir as Carlos Galindo, newcomer Jose Julian as Luis Galindo, Joaquin Cosio as Blasco, Bobby Soto as Luis' friend. Richard Cabral, Jason Medwin and Tom Schanleys played very believable, three dimension roles. Eric Eason and Chris Weitz did a great job on balancing keeping it real and entertaining at the same time. Carlos, a Mexican gardener in the United States illegally doing all he can trying to single handed raise a son in a vulnerable age at a vulnerable time. If you are looking for a warm and heart felt movie without the overblown melodramas then this is a most see.
the film "A Better Life" is one of the best films I seen this year and one of the favorites of all time. The film "A Better Life" is such a touching film and it will touch you if you have had a hard time just make it day to day in life. This film is about people who work hard everyday and at the end of the day they can never get ahead.This film will teach others who take their life's for granted, not to take their life's for grant because there are people in this world that want the simple things in life like parents that just want to spend time with their kids and they cannot because they have to work or do other thing.The film "A Better Life is about the people and for the people. I highly recommend this movie to others.
This movie was beautifully done. It gave me a completely different
perspective on the plight of the illegal alien.
The bond between the father and the son were wonderfully portrayed in this movie. Anyone that has kids will be able to relate - the father just wants more for his son.
The plight of the Mexican is a bit of a lose - lose situation, as this film demonstrates. There is nothing for them in their own country; America is their only hope. Anyone would do the same thing as the lead character in this film - take the dangerous risk of immigrating to America - by whatever means necessary.
Greetings from Lithuania.
"Better Life" was a really good movie. It reminded my another good movie about similar life "The Visitor". This is a really inspiring and touching movie about single fathers "journey" to make a better life for his son (or as they say, to find American dream). The way is hard, and sure not everyone can go through it. It's really rare in these days to see such a simple story on a big screen, not overdone in special effects and stuff like that.
If you like simple and quiet but powerful stories, "Better Life" is one not to be missed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
the story in short is that of an illegal immigrant named Carlos
Galindo, played by Demian Bichir who is trying to make a living for him
and his son, played by Jose Julian in the tough streets of Los Angeles.
Desperate to have a better life, Carlos decides to take a debt, a loan to buy a truck to make a better business, but without having the legal papers and driver's license, he is caught in a dilemma between making a decent living and avoiding deportation.
to avoid spoiling any more of the plot, i will stop here.
the movie was very good, definitely enjoyable. the story is very touching and engaging. i never felt bored. the plot moved in a very steady pace.
the characters were interesting, and the acting was pretty good, Bichir actually delivered a solid performance. i really felt connected to the characters.
the best thing about the movie, is the story as it was a window to the lives of the poor, their struggling and motivation for a better life. it was certainly an eye opener of the blessings that most of us have.
It is a surprise to me how a very good movie like this don't get a wide theatrical release. but anyways, if it is playing near you, i highly recommend this.
Quite simply put this is an absolutely amazing film.
Demian Bichir is top class and fully deserves his Oscar nomination and probably deserves it more than most of the other nominees's. People are saying its a shock nomination however if you have seen the film you will understand completely why he got it.
Truly beautiful and am not afraid to say it made me cry. i know this is a massive topic in the United States however absolutely anybody can and will connect with this film. its not just a tail about illegal immigrants its an incredibly powerful father and son tale.
I will be tuning in to the academy awards this Sunday hoping he can win it!
If anything just give the film a watch you wont be disappointed!
My husband and I went to see this film. I lived in Whittier for 25
years - So. CA. since the 50's and went to L.A. many times and had
friends who lived difficult lives such as this. We thought the movie
was wonderful and very "real"! I loved how Dad and son related.
I'm a pretty simple person and like to watch nice movies - I am definitely going to watch this movie again!!
The only thing I would change is to make sure I bring a box of Kleenex! I was so moved and hurt I couldn't leave the theater for at least 5 minutes!
Go see this movie - especially if you like true to life movies - it's inspiring & loving.
God bless everyone who experiences life this way. This movie inspired me to start praying for all who are in situations like these ones!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Carlos Galindo is a man that crossed the border to the United States
seeking a better life for Jose, his teenager son, and himself. Carlos
works for Blasco, also an undocumented Mexican, who wants to retire
from gardening. When Carlos is offered the truck, a necessary tool for
his type of job, he sees the opportunity to improve his life. After
all, working for himself, he figures will be better than working for a
salary. Carlos jumps at the opportunity.
Jose, the son, is not having an easy time. As a young man in the gang infested neighborhoods of Los Angeles, he is constantly taunted by his peers, trying to get him to join the gang. His sweetheart's family is involved with the tough guys of the 'hood. All Jose would like to do is to play soccer.
The only hope for Carlos is to borrow the money from his sister. She, in turn, has been hiding the money for other things, but she sees in Carlos' ambition a ray of hope that he will succeed in getting ahead. After the truck is secured, Carlos figures he and Jose will soon begin to see the benefits of his hard work.
Unfortunately, fate intervenes in Carlos' dreams; his truck is stolen. Carlos cannot go to the police because his own immigration status. How can he tell the authorities he has devoted his life to hard work and trying to give Jose what he did not have? Trying to find the thief, proves to be his own downfall because the system works against Carlos.
"A Better Life" is a well felt film that brought to mind Vittorio De Sica's masterpiece "Bicycle Thief" that deals on a similar subject, in a different way. Directed by Chris Weitz, and based on a screenplay by Eric Eason, it is based on a story by Roger Simon. The director achieves a coup by casting the great Demian Bichir in the role of Carlos. "A Better Life" is a character study of a poor man trying to make a life for his son and himself in a country that is not his own. In a way, Carlos is pursuing the American dream, but as a poor, uneducated man, he has almost no opportunities to succeed except by working the jobs no one wants to do. His dream suddenly turns into a nightmare when the vehicle he needs for work is taken away from him.
Demian Bichir is the basic reason for watching the film. He makes quite an impression as the Mexican immigrant. Jose Julian, who plays Jose, is not in the same league as Mr. Bichir, but he does what he can with his character.
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