A Better Life
The quest to recover a stolen truck becomes a journey to adulthood for a young boy who begins to understand his immigrant father for the first time.
In A Better Life, Carlos (Demian Bichir) is an illegal Mexican immigrant and single father who works long hours as a gardener to the wealthy. He is willing to endure any sacrifice to ensure a better life for his son, Luis (Jose Julian). Carlos is determined that Luis stay in school and avoid being recruited into the local gang, but Luis fears being trapped into the hard life of his father and is tempted to take risky shortcuts.
When his employer offers to sell him his truck and the chance to operate his own business, Carlos sees an opportunity to earn a better living and spend more time with his son. He borrows his sister's life savings of $12,000 to make the purchase, expecting to pay her back within the year. Things go terribly wrong when the truck is stolen, along with all of Carlos' hopes and dreams.
Bichir delivers an impressive performance as Carlos, a man whose love for his son keeps him going against overwhelming odds. Carlos takes Luis on a desperate journey through the streets of Los Angeles to recover the missing truck. Along the way he teaches his son the values of hard work, self-respect, keeping one's word and an appreciation of those whose sacrifices have paved the way to a better future for their children.
A Better Life is being compared to The Bicycle Thief, Vittorio de Sica's classic Italian neo-realist film about a father and son's quest to recover the stolen bicycle that was to be their economic salvation. Like that film, A Better Life explores themes of poverty and desperation amid the human yearning for a more hopeful future.
The film was directed by Chris Weitz, who is best known for the Oscar-nominated About a Boy, The Golden Compass and the Twiight series' New Moon. A Better Life had its world premiere last month at the Los Angeles Film Festival and is currently in release.
The screenplay, written by Eric Eason, provides an understated but powerful window into the world of a people whose terrible circumstances drive them relentlessly forward amid great risk in the desperate hope that they will arrive in a better place. There can be no going back. The final line of the film sums it up beautifully.