While it largely deals with the hardships of immigrants in America, this new film by Chris Weitz (About a Boy) is much more nuanced than that. It’s a quietly heartbreaking father-and-son story fueled by clashes of age, social class, and culture. Carlos (Demián Bichir) is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico working as a landscaper and raising his 14-year-old citizen-son Luis (José Julián) by himself. When he makes the difficult decision to buy a truck to further his business opportunities, it’s supposed to be the ticket to a better home and school for Luis. But when the truck is stolen, father and son are forced to work together to get it back. All this plays out in a sun-soaked haze on the streets of L.A., amid gang pressure and racial tension. It’s hard not to care deeply for Carlos and Luis, but if you’re looking for a feel-good salute to the system, find another movie. There are moments when A Better Life could dig deeper or be more controversial, but there’s something powerful about employing an understated story to represent such a noisy issue.
Director: Chris Weitz
Writer: Eric Eason
Cast: Demian Bichir, Jose Julian, Dolores Heredia, Joaquin Cosio and Carlos Linares