I’m afraid my knowledge of Chris Weitz’s previous directorial outings does not extend beyond The Golden Compass (2007) and his joint work with his brother Paul on the film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel About A Boy (2002). A Better Life (2011), on which he again takes the solo directorial reigns, brings to mind three other films. Firstly Thomas McCarthy’s wonderful 2008 film The Visitor, which touches on the emotive subject of illegal immigration and deportation. Then there’s Ken Loach’s American filmed Bread and Roses (2000) about the fate of poorly paid immigrant workers in Los Angeles and the inequalities attached to this underclass in one of the worlds richest nations. But mainly its reminiscent of the Italian neo-realist masterpiece Bicycle Thieves (1948) directed by Vittorio De Sica, which tells the story of a poor man searching the streets of post war Rome for his stolen bicycle, his only means of earning a living and taking care of his wife and two young children.
In Weitz’s film it’s no longer a bike he’s looking for but a truck and its no longer Rome but LA. Our protagonist this time is Carlos Galindo (Demian Bichir who played Fidel Castro in Che the 2008 biopic) an illegal Mexican immigrant who works as a jobbing gardener and spends his free time trying to keep his son Luis away from the local gangs. When his employer return’s home to Mexico, he sells the business to Carlos who borrows the money from his better off married sister. An even more desperate immigrant steals the truck and the tools and sells them which means Carlos has not only lost his livelihood but has no way of paying the loan money back to his sister and with no money will struggle to keep his son away from the tattooed gang members.
|Jose Julian who plays Luis and Demian Birchir.|
A very under played and unassuming drama that quietly but undeniably packs an emotional punch. Its locations and slang dialect give this impressive film an authentic feel. Demian Bichir fully deserves his Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, although I don’t expect he will actually win it?