Premiering at the Los Angeles Film Festival for the first time in front of a large audience, A Better Life proves that it has a lot of heart. Although, sadly, it won't appeal to a mass audience, it will find a good niche who will appreciate the human elements depicted in the midst of a controversial issue where the humanity is usually forgotten.
Popular Mexican actor Demian Bechir stars as Carlos, an undocumented Mexican immigrant who is trying to make a better life for his son. He tries to remain as invisible as possible in the densely populated east Los Angeles where he lives with his "Americanized" child, played by newcomer José Julián.
Carlos is convinced by a friend to buy his truck and start his own landscaping business. He finally finds the money to do so, but things soon take a turn for the worst when the vehicle is stolen.
Father and son go on a journey together to find the item because they can't go to the local authority - and it ends up bringing them closer than ever. Their journey is not just one of finding a truck, but a journey of courage and an attempt at understanding each others' very different lives and points of view.
A Better Life is all about its great cast. The plot is well done and would be interesting with any group of actors, but Bechir brings this heart-wrenching story to a whole new level with his ability to evoke pathos and bring the humanity and vulnerability of his character to the forefront.
The film is full of symbols and blatant appeal through its fine storytelling. The hard reality of an undocumented immigrant is depicted with such care and understanding. It shows a different side to the stories we hear about in the media when it comes to people who live in this country without legal status.
Director Chris Weitz has the ability to bring humanity to the forefront of relevant immigration issues in this country, especially in Los Angeles. The film allows the audience to catch a glimpse into the world of an everyday immigrant - real or otherwise. Weitz is able to highlight some of the serious issues many people living in the U.S. face, while still telling a compelling story.
He manages to negate the sterile world of bureaucracy, focusing on love and courage, while also highlighting that behind every issue and every bill presented to congress, there are actual people who will be affected. A Better Life manages to shine a special light on some of the folks who suffer most from the politics involved.
The film is a rollercoaster of emotions for the viewer; you really get invested in these characters. The characters get their hopes up - and then dashed almost immediately when things don't turn out. As an audience, we experience the same ups and downs.
Tension is at a constant high and it's easy to get completely wrapped up in what's going on. Things aren't always explicitly stated with regards to what could happen if these two get caught at any moment, but the film is so well done, it would be impossible not to understand those implications.
A Better Life is so much more than just a story of a stolen truck or the relationship between a father and son. It's an appeal to the humanity in us all. We must understand that we are all deserving of a chance to succeed and live our own version of The American Dream.