A Better Life

(2011)

Genres: Drama

Review: A Better Life

Transcript for Review: A Better Life

IGNATIY VISHNEVETSKY:
Our next film is a pretty good chase mystery disguised as an immigrant drama. A BETTER LIFE stars Demian Bichir as Carlos an illegal immigrant from Mexico who makes money landscaping in Los Angeles. He’s also a single father trying to raise his son, Luis, a surly teenager with only a vague grasp of his father’s culture. 
 
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Carlos wants to move his son to a better neighborhood and a better school, and a chance comes around when his longtime boss announces that he’s moving back to Mexico and offers to sell Carlos his tools, truck and business. To pay him, Carlos has to borrow his sister’s life savings.
 
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But the truck gets stolen. Afraid to ask the police for help, Carlos and Luis go searching for the thief on their own. 
 
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This movie is at its best when Carlos and Luis are following the trail of the car thief. Their investigation takes them  from cramped apartments and bustling rodeos to nightclubs and chop shops. There’s a subplot about Luis’s involvement with a gangster’s niece that overreaches a bit, but for the most part, the care with which this movie establishes Carlos’ struggles and his relationship with his son makes his search for the stolen truck more desperate and tense. It’s thumbs up for me.

CHRISTY LEMIRE:
I have to give it a vague thumbs down, although I feel that this is…

IGNATIY:
You have to, you were compelled, tell me. 

CHRISTY:
I have to. It’s within me deeply. It’s a really relevant story. It’s a story that needs to be told; a story that needs to be viewed, but It’s so preachy and so heavy handed and this Carlos character just comes off as this one dimensional martyr and not until the very end. And I don’t want to give the ending away, but there’s a very climactic confrontation with his son that reveals some complexity to his character that we had not seen at all before, and I wish more of that had been sprinkled throughout the entire film to really flesh him out, it does pick up, not to be corny, when the pick up truck gets stolen. 

IGNATIY:
Yeah, when the pick up gets stolen.

CHRISTY: 
It, it becomes more interesting and more of a mystery, and I do like that, but this could have been a lot better. 

IGNATIY:
Well, most things can be better, its, pretty much anything can be better. I didn’t find this to be preachy at all. 

CHRISTY:
No?

IGNATIY:
Um, and in fact, that early scenes would show kind of the rhythms of his work, how you know, he gets to his job, his relationship with his boss, none of those seem to be really preaching anything, they just seem to be showing this very particular, social milieu, which is what…

CHRISTY:
He comes of as saintly no matter what happens. He comes across as a good guy who’s put upon the whole way through, until the very end when things get, a little…

IGNATIY:
He comes across as a good hard working guy. I don’t think he comes of as a saint, when his, you know, when his truck gets stolen the first thing he does is, you know, he gets drunk, and then his son kind of has to help him out, to find…

CHRISTY:
And the son is always the same guy throughout the entire thing, too. The son is always surly and only toward the very end does any sort of real relationship ever actually get forged.