Todays review is for A Better Life – It’s this weekends art house release and my personal pick for not only the week but also my movie of the month. Unfortunately it’s release is very limited and therefore can only be seen in one cinema for now, that cinema being Nu Metro Hyde Park. Read on and I hope you’ll see why I feel so strongly about this film.
[UPDATE] Ster-Kinekor has added A Better Life to its roster and will be screening it at selected cinema nouveau complexes.
Demián Bichir, José Julián, Chelsea Rendon, Dolores Heredia
Carlos Galindo (Demian Bichir) is an illegal immigrant who left his home in Mexico with his family to find a brighter future inAmerica. Working as a gardener tending to the lavish lifestyles of wealthy upper class LA residents, Carlos spends most of his waking hours in pursuit of providing his son, Luis (José Julián), with a life filled with the opportunities that he himself never had. Carlos’ son has grown into an impressionable teen that lives with the lifestyle of a gang member literally sitting on his doorstep. Single parenthood has never seemed this grave.
One day however, despite his efforts in finding work suited to his status, his boss decides to return to Mexico and leaves Carlos jobless – this of course can be avoided if Carlos buys his bosses pickup truck and inherits the business. Carlos scrapes together what cash he can find and purchases the truck, setting his family on a road to a better life. Unfortunately plans turn for the worse when the truck gets stolen. So begins his journey to find the stolen car all the while bonding with his son who has grown distant in these recent times of uncertainty.
The setting of A Better Life is flooded with rich texture and colour which further amplifies the remarkable characters that inhabitEast Los Angeles. Director Chris Weitz provides us with a gritty, candid look into the lifestyle of the disenfranchised Hispanic contingency ofL.A.- it is truly grim and abandons the cheapness that is often found in movies that tackle the subject. The film itself is intricately composed and timed, never a dull moment to be seen and always enriched with genuine emotion. The plot may seem somewhat cliché but the way the plot is handled on screen gives it an identity of its own.
At most times the performances are poignant and powerful but when intense dialogue isn’t being exchanged, the acting comes off as a little hammy and over the top. Thankfully it’s not just about the acting and more about the message. Bichir works magic with his character and plays the humble man with great ambitions with impeccable impact and immerses himself personally in the role. As his son, José Julián completes the father-son dynamic to great effect especially considering that this is his first feature. The remaining cast portray their minor roles in a genuine fashion that truly conveys desperation.
A Better Life is one of those rare examples of a film that has a relatively straight forward plot but is infused with so much spirit that it would be hard to imagine the story told any other way. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that is fine tuned with an abundance of intricacies and meaning. This drama can be enjoyed by anyone and appeals to an audience that can appreciate a film that doesn’t place emphasis solely on violence and profanities. It is obvious that Chris Weitz and his team have devoted a lot of time to crafting this soft spoken drama, every cinematic element meshes. Whether you’re looking for a straight forward no-nonsense plot or something more mentally and emotionally engaging, A Better Life will satisfy. This film is the genuine article, a journey of despair and revelation, all wrapped up in the wail of a haunting Spanish guitar.
That’s it for this weeks releases. If you need info on any other films coming out this week, don’t be shy, check out my previews here > http://inthekan.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/previews-this-weekends-movies-26-august/
Lastly, my review for Hitchcock’s Psycho will be up soon and the poll is still going until Sunday, just hit the facebook page to find out more!