Movie Review: A Better Life

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The film, “A Better Life,” is a very moving story that comes across the controversial issue of illegal immigration.

It gives the viewers a human touch to the issue through Demian Bichir’s emotional portrayal of Carlos, an illegal Mexican immigrant, who fled with his wife to the United States to make a better life for themselves. Sadly, his past efforts to get citizenship papers were dashed when a corrupt lawyer took his money with false promises and his wife left him soon after. He is stranded penniless in the United States and forced to raise his young son on his own, while trying to remain invisible to the government’s eye.

The film starts off years later with Carlos working alongside his boss, Blasco (played by Joaquîn Cosio), who is a gardener with a secure list of clients. They work day to day constantly, from the early hours of the morning to the late evening. He makes barely anything, but enough to give him and his son, Luis (José Juliån), a place to live and food to eat.The simplicity of the film gives it a nice touch.

The constancy of his life of invisibility changes when Blasco approaches him with the offer of selling Carlos his truck and tools to run his own gardening business. Unfortunately, since Carlos has no papers, he can never get a driver’s license. By driving the truck he runs the risk of bringing attention to himself by the cops. If he were ever to be pulled over, his identity as an illegal immigrant would be revealed and the government would deport him back to Mexico. He decides to take that risk when his sister is willing to loan him the cash required for the truck, knowing that this will make a better life for him and his son.

That is the film’s main focus, a father’s desire to rise up from his depressing stage of life and move on towards a new and better life.  Just that simple desire brings forth a well of emotions and makes the viewer empathize with Carlos. Seeing him struggle with poverty and living in an old shack of a house in L.A. while in fear of being noticed and seen. He wants his son to have a better life than the one they have.

Sadly his hopes are crushed when a new hire steals his beloved truck and gardening tools. By stealing the truck, the thief steals away Carlos’s dreams of a better life, and the father fights to take them back. Through their search for the stolen truck, the angry teen and quiet father start bond over time. Each learns more about the other over time. The Americanized Luis begins to understand the harsh life his father has had to endure for him and learns to embrace his past and culture.

The film clearly shows that Luis is Carlos’s life and reason for living through their touching bond between a father and his son. Carlos forces Luis to learn the true ways of life and teaches Luis that school is the way to living an improved life. Through their time together Luis slowly lets go his anger and resentfulness of his life’s situation and Carlos is able to show more the love he has for his son. Carlo’s quiet peaceful nature calms the teen’s violent personality.

Bichir does a wonderful job in the film and really tears at our hearts as we watch his character struggle and suffer. Juliån does a terrific job as in the role of the rebellious son. He really moves the audience with the teen’s inner struggles of wanting more with his life and finding himself. The powerful storm of emotions is very gripping and leaves the viewer glued to their seats.

There is a personal touch to it and the struggles the duo faces makes the audience root for them in their own hopes for a better life. “A Better Life” ends dramatically and changes their lives forever. But for better or worse, who knows. This simple film comes to an end that leaves the viewer wondering about the impact of the characters’ life choices and the meaning of a better life.

This film is definitely a must see. It will make you laugh, cry, and smile.

Photos courtesy of Summit Entertainment and Hang Dai Films. Video courtesy of Hang Dai Films via Youtube.

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