DIR: Chris Weitz • WRI: Eric Eason • PRO: Jami Gertz, Paul Junger Witt, Christian McLaughlin • DOP: Javier Aguirresarobe • ED: Peter Lambert • DES: Missy Stewart • CAST: Demián Bichir, José Julián, Eddie ‘Piolin’ Sotelo, Joaquín Cosio
This intimate family story marks a change from Weitz’s recent work on blockbusters Twilight: New Moon and The Golden Compass and a welcome return to the form he showed with About a Boy. The title refers to a father’s struggle as an illegal immigrant in Los Angeles, doing his best to give his son the opportunities that he never had. A misfortunate turn of events leaves gardener Carlos Galindo (Demián Bichir) down on his luck but brings him closer to his teenage son, Luis (newcomer José Julián). Luis lacks respect for his father’s work and is being tempted by the glamour of gang life in a city that shuns him.
A Better Life is a personal tale which addresses the plight of illegal immigrants everywhere through the touching story of a single father’s attempts to raise his son as best he can. As an insight into the life of illegal immigrants this approach is very successful as Galindo is a sympathetic character that does not fulfil the stereotype of the lazy immigrant. Instead, he is a hard-working, generous and ambitious man who has been dealt a challenging hand by life but still strives to give his son the chances he never had that America can give.
Bichir is astounding in a role that allows him to showcase to an English speaking audience what Mexican audiences have known for years. He mows through the extensive range of emotions which Galindo’s journey offers and excels in this demanding role. Combined with his part as Esteban Reyes in Weeds , A Better Life should jumpstart his career in Hollywood.
Following his direction of two blockbusters, Weitz appears to relish the intimacy of this story. While a handheld, shaky camera has been popular and effective for similar stories such as The Wrestler, Weitz instead opts for a much less intrusive and predominantly static camera. This allows the audience to focus on the story and performances as well as taking in the stunning vistas of LA and its Mexican immigrant culture.
It was the script that initially gained this film a cast and financial backing and it is appropriately strong. The father-son relationship is believable and the audience is allowed a realistic insight into the trials and tribulations of life for illegal immigrants in LA.
A Better Life is an authentic account of the harsh realities for illegal aliens in LA from the perspective of a single father, played with gusto by Demián Bichir.
A Better Life is released on 29th July 2011