A Better Life

15 Jul

A better life, the new film by Chris Weitz (About a Boy) is the story of Carlos Galindo, an illegal Mexican immigrant raising his son in Los Angeles. Carlos (Demián Bichir) works as a landscaper during the day and sleeps on the couch at night in the cramped house he shares with his moody teenage son, Luis (José Julián). When Carlos’ boss, Blasco, decides to sell his truck (and, therefore, his business), Carlos at first hesitates, but eventually risks everything to become his own boss and, more importantly, provide a better life for Luis.

A Better Life is a small film, intimate and, at times, heartbreaking. It flirts with conventions common in this type of movie: The single father struggling to raise a child alone; the good man in a bad situation; the son torn between the person he knows he should be and the attraction of the gang life, but it never takes the easy way out and rarely follows the predictable path. And the actors follow suit. Demian Bichir, a Mexican actor known primarily for a role on Weeds, delivers a subtle portrait of a good and honorable man whose past decisions overshadow both his present and future. He conveys more with a look than many other actors can with a page of dialogue, and keeps control in scenes that would be easy to take over the top. Jose Julian, as Luis, presents a young man who disdains his father’s life and yearns for more, even as his father strives to give him just that.

A Better Life presents itself as a run-of-the-mill, uplifting tale of a father who wants nothing more than to provide for his son and to give him the opportunities he never had. The choices of the filmmaker and the actors, however, defy the conventions of that genre.

 

–by Charles

Thanks to Brad Watts (http://www.wattsupreviews.com) for allowing us to cross-post this review.

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