91 user 92 critic

A Better Life (2011)

PG-13 | | Drama, Romance | 28 July 2011 (Thailand)
2:15 | Trailer
A gardener in East L.A. struggles to keep his son away from gangs and immigration agents while trying to give his son the opportunities he never had.


Chris Weitz


Eric Eason (screenplay), Roger L. Simon (story)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 6 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Demián Bichir ... Carlos Galindo (as Demian Bichir)
Eddie 'Piolin' Sotelo ... Eddie 'Piolin' Sotelo
Joaquín Cosio ... Blasco Martinez
José Julián ... Luis Galindo
Nancy Lenehan ... Mrs. Donnelley
Gabriel Chavarria ... Ramon
Bobby Soto ... Facundo
Chelsea Rendon ... Ruthie Valdez
Trampas Thompson ... School Security Officer
Tim Griffin ... Juvie Officer
Valorie Hubbard ... School Secretary
Dolores Heredia ... Anita
Isabella Rae Thomas ... Linda
Carlos Linares ... Santiago
Robert Peters ... Truck Driver


Carlos Galindo is a decent man, a Mexican single parent working as a gardener in California to raise Luis, his fourteen-year-old son, whom Carlos is frightened will drift into local gang culture. Carlos buys a truck for his work with money loaned by his sister but a shifty new employee steals it from him and, though Carlos and Luis track the thief down, he has sold the truck. Father and son bond as they reclaim the vehicle from the pound but Carlos attracts police attention, making his future in America uncertain when it is discovered that he is an illegal immigrant. Written by don @ minifie-1

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Every father wants more for his son


Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some violence, language and brief drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Director Chris Weitz liked to do all the dangerous scenes in the script before he asked his cast to perform them. A stunt double taught Weitz and Demián Bichir how to climb a palm tree, and although Weitz was first to successfully climb one, Bichir did go on to film all the scenes himself, without a stunt double. Weitz told the audience at a SAG Screening: "That is why in my films there are not many scenes that require stunt doubles". See more »


At 21:10, the size and shape of the bread that Santiago is giving to Carlos Galindo is different from different angles. See more »


Carlos Galindo: This truck is my only chance to grow this into something big. So we can move out of here and get you in a better school.
See more »


Featured in Ebert Presents: At the Movies: Episode #1.23 (2011) See more »


Performed by Los Pilotos
Courtesy of Los Pilotos Records
See more »

User Reviews

Neo-realism and Hollywood collide!
12 December 2011 | by lizandro_meleanSee all my reviews

Chris Weitz did a screening of this film at SMC, where I study film, and the reactions of the audience were engaging. The room was filled with a great aura and that was because the screening was filled with people with ethnicities from all over the world and that made the experience a lot more rewarding.

This guy is the same one that brought us American Pie and the second installment of the Twilight series? Yes he is, but let me tell you something, if these paychecks will make him do more movies like this one, then bring another 4 twilight adaptations right now!

The movie is about "Los Mojados", these people who everyday crosses the border from Mexico to the US to look for "A Better Life" like the title implies, trying not to forget their roots, their culture and at the same time struggling to find money to pay the rent, to eat and to survive in the United States without a SSN and without ID. You will wonder why we need to prove we're not from Mars with a visa if God already gave us permission to be here on earth every single second of the movie, absurd and unfair things this world has.

The acting by Demián Bichir, who looks like a younger Vicente Fernández to me, is invisible. You sometimes think you're watching a documentary if it wasn't for the glossy production value of the flick.

This movie needs to be seen by a wider audience, you need to look for it. If you do not feel touch by it, you're surely made out of stone.

The direction by Chris Weitz captures the essence of East LA in a second. There's a scene in the movie where in a matter of 3 minutes you can see how many cultures collide in this side of Los Angeles and how this story can repeat itself in several cultures.

This is also a story about true love between a father and a son, and how you can forget about everything and try every little thing to give your child the things he deserves.

One of the best little movies I have seen this year.

PS: If you like this one, and you're not afraid of B&W cinematography (no, it is not in 3D either) run and rent De Sica's Umberto D., a great masterpiece of Italian neorealism.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 91 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »


Official Sites:

Official Facebook




English | Spanish

Release Date:

28 July 2011 (Thailand) See more »

Also Known As:

The Gardener See more »


Box Office


$10,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$62,087, 26 June 2011

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital | DTS



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

We've Got Your Streaming Picks Covered

Looking for some great streaming picks? Check out some of the IMDb editors' favorites movies and shows to round out your Watchlist.

Visit our What to Watch page

Recently Viewed