A Better Life Review

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On the tough streets of East LA, a gardener (an illegal Mexican immigrant) struggles to keep his son away from gangs while trying to give his son the opportunities he never had.


Directing his first film since vampfest New Moon, Chris Weitz grapples with a less contrived type of outcast: California’s illegal immigrants. Refreshingly employing Spanish-speaking actors and ample Spanish dialogue, Weitz tracks the relentless toil of a Mexican gardener (Demián Bichir) desperate to escape East LA before it’s too late for his wayward son (José Julián). Bichir plays the despondent grafter tremendously, the lines on his weathered face deepening as the camera pans the opulent LA sidewalks from his beaten truck. But the film’s Cat Stevens-sized core of misunderstanding between father and son seems hurriedly resolved when the truck is stolen and the two bond by taking the law into their own hands.

An interesting exploration of class struggle which recalls classics like Bicycle Thieves but doesn't quite live up to them.