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,