A Better Life directed by Chris Weitz. Mr. Bichir is absolutely fantastic in this role because you not only see his pain, but you see him trying to hide his pain, you see him want to get angry but choose not to for the sake of his son Luis (Jose Julian, who himself does a fabulous job, I would much rather see him up for Best Supporting Actor than Christopher Plummer in Beginners) who is in a fragile position as he makes decisions between LA gang life on the streets or a future working and earning an honest living.
A Better Life is closely based on the Italian Neo-Realism film from 1948 The Bicycle Thief/Bicycle Thieves which won an Honorary Oscar for Best Foreign Language film and is usually in critics' top ten list of best films ever made. There are some important differences between the two films: The Bicycle Thief takes place in post-Fascist Italy, after the disastorous reign of Benito Mussolini who got Italy into World War II on the side of the Nazis. The Bicycle Thief is an incredible yet simple parable of how the "vehicle" of Italy getting back on its feet after the catastrophes of World War II were proving futile and hopeless. Likewise, A Better Life provides us with a view of the difficulties of making it in today's economy but also takes the time to show us how doing the right thing doesn't always pay off in monetary terms, but does pay off.
You are bound to have an oppinion on the question of immigration by Mexicans into the United States, and A Better Life does show you what their life is like, but it is also full of valuable symbols that holds up a mirror to our country and shows us sides that perhaps we didn't know existed. One symbol is a constant in Catholic iconography (Carlos is Catholic, we know this by images hanging up within his home) and Carlos is a gardener, a lawn man. The spiritual significance is that our souls and their spiritual growth are often likened to a garden, as in the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Olives, and after Christ's Resurrection, Mary Magdalen mistakes Jesus for the gardener. In terms of the film, Carlos is capable of the hardships he is about to undergo because his garden/soul is well-tended and he knows who to grow "the flowers of virtue" instead of the weeds of sin and vice.
In conclusion, we all say that we want a better life, but like the hip-hop song Luis listens to in the film, we generally think of that in terms of better material living, not better spiritual, psychological and emotional living, but A Better Life makes it clear that both Carlos and Luis have gotten a better life by receiving the fruits of the spirit, the gifts of faith, love and patience that we never want God to give us, but which He desires to give us abundantly, and which comes to us in the very moments when we believe we have lost our life, but He is giving us Life.
|Demian Bichir as Carlos and Jose Julian as Luis in A Better Life.|
|The Bicycle Thief, critically acclaimed as one of the greatest films ever made.|
|With director Chris Weitz, the marks of a great director are all over this film.|