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Chris Weitz, an Academy Award® Nominee for About A Boy (2002) and possibly even better known as the director of Twilight’s New Moon (2009), is bringing another powerful drama to the screen in A Better Life. In his new movie, Weitz paints a narrative of the resilience through the story of a father, who is an illegal citizen, working as a gardener in L.A. to provide a better life for his son. The father, played by Demián Bichir, has access to an important business opportunity through obtaining a pickup truck which would allow him to build a successful operation and have control of his own destiny. This potential is soon crushed when his pickup truck is stolen, throwing not only his life but his son’s into jeopardy.
A strong contender for next year’s Oscars as well as the Spirit Award, this film supplies a sturdy storytelling of a very real fact of life for many illegal immigrants living and working around the world today. The film stays true to many Latino elements, featuring little English and a cast comprised of almost entirely Latino actors. Bichir, who played Fidel Castro in Che (2008), delivers an honest and hardworking performance of a parent up against all odds who continues to fight after each set back in hopes of a good future for his teen son Luis.
Struggling against the presence of gangs and the community offered within them, Bichir’s son, played by newcomer Jose Julian, struggles against what he wants and what his father is trying to provide for him. The hardships which both must endure intertwines them, resulting in a profound connection between not only father and son, but opportunity and the success a person can create.
A Better Life manages its portrayal of the hardships by a single parent Latino very carefully. The context which provides a vehicle for the script is the tightly woven bonds between Latino families and how hardships can tear at that very fabric. At a KCET screening series Weitz identified the movie as having a “deceptively good script” which “dissolved into performances of the actors”. A strong element of the seamless performances given which are completely embodied by the actors is the fact that they were cast without an invested interest in celebrity names. Aside from Demián, who is well known throughout Mexico, the rest of the cast is relatively unknown. This is a key element to the dialogue which the film creates, allowing for an experience unmarred by the political and social baggage which established actors would inevitably contribute.
Despite coming highly acclaimed, A Better Life has struggled to find publicity among many viewers. To be part of a story heard through every culture and race, find this movie in a theater nearby and take meaning from the determination of humanity.