Thursday, July 21, 2011

Quiet Beauty Elevates 'A Better Life'


Back in March, I wrote about the trailer for A Better Life, a film that had already received buzz as the first worthy awards movie of 2011. Having finally seen the film, directed by Chris Weitz and starring Weeds' Demián Bichir and José Julián, I can safely say that the hype holds up.

A Better Life follows the lives of Carlos Galindo (Bichir) and his son Luis (Julián) as they struggle to get through day-to-day life in East Los Angeles. Carlos is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico working as a gardener, trying to make ends meet so his son can live a happy and fulfilled life in the United States. The obstacles he has to face are huge and the hits keep coming—just when Carlos thinks he has found success, the winds shift and life comes crashing down. All the while, Luis deals with the constant pressure of gangs, drugs and violence that is inescapable in his neighborhood and school. These men cannot catch a break.

Weitz beautifully weaves the Los Angeles scenery—both the gorgeous and the gritty—around Carlos and Luis, painting a vivid picture of just how much of a difference a few blocks can make. This film certainly has a message to send about that world a few blocks away: the men, women and children we so often ignore have their own story, their own struggle and their own humanity. The script certainly doesn't avoid the widespread struggles of undocumented aliens—the mass deportations, the journeys with "coyotes" to get over the border, the constant fear of being discovered—but what is so wonderful about the story is that Carlos' love for his son and drive to improve their lives are universal. He is a quiet, kind, hard-working man and wants the best for his child, and Bichir is astounding in the role. In a perfect world, an Oscar nomination would be in his future.

I mentioned it in my post about the trailer, but I should say it again that my cousin, Stacey Lubliner, produced this movie with her company Lime Orchard Productions. What an amazing showing for their first movie out of the gate. I am incredibly proud of her! It's also worth mentioning that my praise of the film is completely indifferent of familial connection—it is truly amazing.

In a year flooded by 3D IMAX, superheroes and CGI, A Better Life rises above the rest with a delicate beauty to be, hands down, the best movie of 2011 thus far.

Grade: A

[Image Source: Summit Entertainment]
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