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Dolores Heredia, who plays Luis’ Aunt Anita, Carlos Galindo’s sister, in the Oscar-nominated drama ‘A Better Life’ is an experienced Mexican actress and producer, who has worked many times with Demian Bichir. The two old friends were delighted to reunite on A Better Life.
“I think this was my fifth film with him. He is a great friend and colleague and I really admire him as an actor. We were constantly laughing and joking in between takes, it was great to work with him again,” Heredia says. Heredia adds that it was equally exciting to work with newcomer José Julián.
“It’s wonderful to work with an actor who is just starting out, there is a special effervescence about it. In addition, José is a very calm, quiet young man but he is very attentive. He was a real pleasure,” Heredia says.
Whereas Anita’s brother Carlos is somewhat struggling to find his way in America, Anita is married, a mother, nurse and lives in a nice neighborhood. Although she is often impatient with her brother, the two share a bond that began many years earlier, when they left Mexico for the United States, both hoping for a better life.
“Carlos and Anita have been in the United States from Mexico for many years. They are very close but things have gone rather better for her. They will always love and help each other but there is a small rift between them having to do with her nephew Luis, who, from her point of view, is not taking very good steps with his life.
She doesn’t like his friends, that he doesn’t study. She is always asking if he is behaving, even though she loves him,” Heredia explains. “She is quite rigid in that respect, she thinks things have to go in a certain way and she wants Luis to follow a certain path that she thinks he is not on, so that really is the first emotional crack between brother and sister. And her own relationship with Luis is tense – he feels she abandoned him and his father, to look after her own life.”
Still, Anita takes a huge risk in loaning her brother money to buy the truck that will literally become his ride to the American Dream – and ultimately, because of the truck, she will have more say in the way Luis is raised, though hers is a pyrrhic victory at best. And yet, the truck – or, actually, Carlos and Luis’ search for it – becomes an adventure as father and son explore Latino Los Angeles – and emotional terrain that they have avoided for many years.
“It starts out as this traditional father-son story – Luis is a typical teenage boy who is finding his way in the world, and like many teenage boys, that includes being embarrassed by your parents. You want them to drop you off miles away from school so your friends won’t see you together.
When the truck is stolen, Luis and Carlos go on this journey together and you find yourself caring as much about that truck as they do – because along the way, you see father and son learn about each other in ways they never did before – Luis, in particular, starts to learn not only how hard his dad is working to give his son a better life and all the advantages he can, but also how to be good person, how to treat people with respect,” says producer Stacey Lubliner.
The disconnect between Carlos and Luis is specific but also, as producer Paul Junger Witt points out, touches on familiar cultural/generational aspects.
“We’re also dealing classically with the immigrant and first generation divide in A Better Life. So you have a boy who is totally American. He has been formed by the same things that formed all of our children; be it film and television and the Internet and media. At the same time, he sees his father as someone from the old country.
When we deal simply with generational differences, it’s enough. When you have an inherently and totally American child and an immigrant parent, that gap is even greater and more difficult to bridge,” he notes. However, it is this father/son relationship, adds producer Jami Gertz, which makes A Better Life a universal story. As the mother of three boys, it is something she can attest to firsthand.
“Two of my three boys are teenagers and I’m always amazed at that moment that their peers and peer pressure start to take over their life. And as a working parent, I could also see things from Carlos’ point of view – the guilt at not being there all the time because of your job. So while it’s about a gardener, it struck me that all these extraordinary people who make our lives better who we don’t really know – their lives, on some level, can be similar to yours even if their socioeconomic backgrounds are not,” Gertz says.
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