A Better Life

  • Film
  • Drama
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After serving Philip Pullman (‘The Golden Compass’) and Stephenie Meyer (‘Twilight: New Moon’), Chris Weitz was presumably looking for material on which he could put his own stamp, which perhaps explains this semi-worthy, semi-arthouse East LA spin on the neorealist saga ‘Bicycle Thieves’. Illegal Mexican immigrant Carlos (Demián Bichir) toils away each day, tending the gardens of wealthy Angelenos, and although his lack of legitimate ID makes him circumspect, the opportunity to buy his retiring boss’s pick-up truck and take over the business himself is not one to miss. It means borrowing money but promises a better future for his US-born-and-raised adolescent son Luis (José Julián). However, actually getting behind the wheel of the truck is only the start of his problems…

Pitched as an educational journey for white-bread America, the film oozes sympathy and thrums with indignation as it lays out poor Carlos’s limited options for the pursuit of happiness. Although there’s more mainstream gloss here than you’d find in the usual grainy handheld indie pic, Weitz holds back on button-pushing special pleading, helped by Bichir’s persuasive everyman and Julián’s credibly sullen teen. It’s in trying to deliver a story that is both social-consciousness raiser and saga of father-son cross-generational transcultural understanding that the effort begins to tell. The didacticism takes the shine off Weitz’s accomplishment, even if the film builds up enough empathy to generate slow-burning emotional impact. Well-meaning and genuine, it’s just a bit too medicinal for its own good.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday July 29 2011
Duration: 97 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Chris Weitz
Cast: Demián Bichir
Eddie Sotelo
Joaquín Cosio
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