.

A Better Life

Demián Bichir, José Julián

Directed by Chris Weitz
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 3
Community: star rating
5 3 0
June 23, 2011

You don't expect the director of the bloodsucking bore The Twilight Saga: New Moon and the epic flop The Golden Compass to deliver the raw emotional power that permeates A Better Life. On the surface, the film seems like one of those docudramas that beg to be rewarded solely for their good intentions. But Chris Weitz cuts deep in this tale of Carlos Galindo (Demián Bichir), a Mexican gardener living illegally as a single dad in East Los Angeles and trying to keep his teen son (the excellent José Julián) from being sucked into local gangs. Weitz, of Mexican ancestry, doesn't use the script (by Eric Eason) to build a pulpit. He lets his story grow in force by focusing on telling details (like the theft of the truck that allows Carlos to make a living, a nod to Vittorio De Sica's classic The Bicycle Thief) and on the monumental performance of Bichir (Castro in Che and Mary-Louise Parker's lover in Weeds), who lets us into the mind and heart of a man most of us walk past and never see. This movie will get under your skin.

Related: The 12 Must-See Summer Movies — Plus Five Unheralded Gems and Five More to Skip
The Complete Archive: Over 20 Years of Peter Travers' Movie Reviews Now Online

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