A Better Life

Jose Julian (left) and Demjan Bichir in "A Better Life."

“A Better Life” is a contemporary take on Italian neo-realistic director Vittorio De Sica’s “Bicycle Thieves” (1948), formerly known, in this country, as “The Bicycle Thief.”  Carlos (Demian Bichir), an illegal alien from Mexico, lives in Los Angeles with his son Luis (Jose Julian).  Carlos works as a gardener, caring for the grounds of the wealthy, while trying to build a better life for Luis.  Luis attends a less than stellar school where he is tempted by gang life.

As in “Bicycle Thieves,” a theft occurs which puts Carlos’ ability to make a living in serious jeopardy.  Father and son set off to retrieve their stolen property, which takes them through L.A.’s subculture of illegal immigrants.

“A Better Life” has a decent story, and I am not condemning it, but it was also not entirely convincing.   A big part of the problem is that Julian, who plays the son, is just not authentic.  He looks a bit too “out of central casting” polished.  Acting-wise he is just not up to the film’s bigger dramatic moments.   Demain Bichir, who plays the father, is a much more naturalistic actor, but screenwriter Eric Eason and director Chris Weitz should have given him a character to play that had more depth, as opposed to the one note, stoic personality portrayed.

“A Better Life” is playing locally at Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema, 143 East Houston Street, in New York.

“A Better Life,” director Chris Weitz, 2011,


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on July 19, 2011, in New. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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