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A Better Life

by

Jeff Nelson

A Better Life is a generally well-made film and comes recommended.

A Better Life
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The very controversial subject of illegal immigration has some standing strongly behind his or her take on it while others prefer to not touch upon that topic. A Better Life jumps right into this matter head first. I haven't had a real opinion on illegal immigration, although I have taken note of the pros and cons of it. Thankfully this film doesn't shove either message down anybody's throat. In fact, both sides are present in the movie. Hollywood generally tries to show dreams coming true, which are often great escapism for audiences. A Better Life does just the opposite.The movie shows how dreams don't always come true, but reality is actually far removed from all of the fantasies that Hollywood often has in flicks. It's a bold move for a filmmaker to create something that treats such a controversial subject as if it's so easy to discuss. However, it approaches it in a good way without trying to convince us one way or the other.

Determined to give his estranged teenage son a better future, Carlos Riquelme, an illegal immigrant, buys a used truck and gardening equipment to start a business. However, when the truck is stolen, he and his son work together to recover it, reconnecting for the first time in years. The story and the dialogue are opposites in a strange way. The plot proves to a very realistic movie about dreams. It shows that even those who work extraordinarily hard to receive a better future, it doesn't always turn out so well. Hollywood wants us to believe in the "happily ever after" type life, although A Better Life tells us a completely different story of life. By the end of the movie, the story certainly speaks a message that is quite heartfelt. However, the dialogue tells a different story. Unfortunately, a lot of it is rather cheesy and dramatic. It would have been nice if the dialogue felt as real as the story. The plot points are extremely predictable and the movie never pulls any punches. Despite that, this is still a powerful motion picture. It displays a father and son simply trying to survive and trying to make A Better Life for themselves. In fact, Carlos constantly mentions attempting to become a citizen, although the process is so difficult that he is having troubles with the system. This is all occurring despite the fact that he's a hardworking man who simply wants to live in peace with his teenage son, send him to a better school, and give him a normal life. From the beginning, the characters feel very realistic and audiences are sure to feel a lot of sympathy towards them. They're likable characters and I can't imagine people not rooting for them the entire running time. Life isn't as clean cut as a lot of Hollywood pictures tell us, there are many grey areas.

The strongest aspect of A Better Life is the acting. DemiŠn Bichir deserved his Oscar nomination for this role. To be honest, it's a bit of a shame that he didn't win. He was against some heavy competition and this movie didn't get very much exposure. However, he composed an extremely genuine character. There isn't a moment where I didn't believe him in this character. He's very natural and truly made me feel bad for him. Audiences are sure to constantly want his character to succeed. I'm hoping to see him in more motion pictures in the future. There aren't a lot of actors around nowadays that can completely steal the show and shine like this. Josť JuliŠn performs as Carlos's son. This is his first full length feature film, yet he does wonderfully. He's also convincing in this character and I don't see many other actors his age slamming a performance such as this. The acting department is utterly fantastic.

I'm a bit surprised to see that the Academy didn't give A Better Life more attention. This is usually the type of film that gets a lot of appreciation from them. It has a message that is sure to touch the hearts of all moviegoers. It's a film about life, dreams, and wanting to see that light at the end of the tunnel. To know that things will end up alright. This movie isn't meant to be entertaining or a form of escapism. It's meant to be a very real picture of real life. Some things work out and others are absolutely demolished. Ultimately, this film is a character study between Carlos and his son. The acting is absolutely perfect, which is what gives this film the strength that it possesses. The script has some issues, especially with the fact that it's a bit too predictable and melodramatic in a few scenes. Despite that, this movie definitely deserves more attention than it has received. A Better Life is a generally well-made film and comes recommended.

My Rating = Three and One Half Stars

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