A Better Life (2011)
A Better Class of Movie
Carlos Galindo (Demian Bichir) is an illegal Mexican immigrant living in L.A. with his 15 year old son Luis (José Julián) doing his best by him ever since his wife left some time ago. But their relationship is a fractious one as due to their situation Carlos leads a low profile life, working hard for a man called Blasco (Joaquin Cosio) as a gardener, making enough to cover the bills and food but that is it whilst Luis wants to have the same life as his friends. When Carlos gets an opportunity to buy the business he gets the money from a relative but the very next day the truck is stolen. With the situation meaning they can't go to the police, father and son start scouring the city for the truck.
Chris Weitz is a director with a curious portfolio of work; he started off with uncredited work in "American Pie" and then directed "Down to Earth" before moving on to "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" but then helms "A Better Life" a very different movie to everything he had done before and one which makes you wonder whether it is the same man who gave us "The Twilight Saga: New Moon". As such let me say that if you were put off of watching "A Better Life" because you saw that it was directed by Chris Weitz then don't let his previous movies put you off as it is different.
Having said that "A Better Life" whilst different is by no means hard to follow even though there are some scenes which involve subtitles. What we get is this wonderful blend of life in L.A. for an illegal Mexican and how difficult it is on so many levels. We see how for Carlos trying to make ends meet when you can't legally get a driving licence is tough going but at the same time we see how for his son Luis being tarnished with the same brush thanks to the system stereotyping of all Mexican kids being in gangs almost seals his destiny to be in one. But as such we also see the generational conflict between father and son as Carlos tries to hold dear the traditions whilst his son is drawn to embrace American culture. I could go on because there are a lot more layers which examines life for Carlos and Luis.
Of course we have moments of drama, most notably the theft of the truck leading to the father and son working together to try and find it. If anything this side of the movie is predictable as we have them spending time together, talking and of course getting to understand each other as they tour the back streets of L.A. looking for the truck and seeing the side of life not often shown in movies where others are in similar desperate situations. That leads to the outcome of all this which whilst logical may come as a surprise to many.
In truth I still can't get over that "A Better Life" was directed by Chris Weitz and there is a beauty but also a realism to it that just makes you sit up and watch. Much of that is down to the writing as it is rich with visual detail which speaks volume for the situation they are in. A scene where Carlos takes the bus across town to wait with all the others for the trucks to come past looking to hire men is so powerful, speaking of the situation that these people find themselves in yet the generosity and compassion they have towards others.
What this all boils down to is that "A Better Life" is a better class of movie with a beautiful story, beautiful visual depth, beautiful writing and beautiful acting. I know I keep on about it but in many ways the biggest surprise in that this is the work of director Chris Weitz who delivers something you do not expect from a man involved in the cheesy "The Twilight Saga: New Moon".
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