“A Better Life” has you rooting for the underdog

Even if you are not Latino or immigrant, the new film by Chris Weitz (the director of About a Boy and The Twilight Saga: New Moon ) will leave an impression and probably many tears rolling down your cheeks.

Well directed and well written, the film, starring rugged and handsome mexican telenovela actor Demián Bichir as Carlos Riquelme had a limited opening this past weekend in New York and Los Angeles, with special screenings in cities like San Antonio.

A Better Life is a touching, poignant, multi-generational story about a father’s love and the lengths a parent will go to give his child the opportunities he never had.

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 in Los Angeles. When the truck is stolen, he and his son work together to recover it, reconnecting for the first time in years. He then struggles to keep his son away from gangs and immigration agents while working for the city’s wealthy home owners.

The unfortunate side of this story is that a better life never gets better, since the main character runs into all sorts of problems and finally gets deported.

Portraying a stereotypical undocumented immigrant, A Better Life manages to make a few political points along the way; throwing in scenes of the 2005 protests in Los Angeles, audio of the famous radio personality who actually rised to stardom during those cries for immigration reform six years ago, Piolin Sotelo;  phrases such as “I’ll be invisible and “American Dream”; imagery from the harsh life of the undocumented in scenes such as the “choosing” of day laborers or the overcrowded apartment, filled with newly arrived immigrants, in a crime-ridden neighborhood. It also picks on the futility of coming to this country illegally looking for a better life and knowing that a traffic stop can mean being deported and leaving your child and everything you’ve worked for behind.

Bichir is superb in his character and has you wishing things would actually get better for him and his son.

Bichir started his acting career at the age of 14 in a telenovela. We’ve seen him in movies such as Sexo, pudor y lágrimas, El crimen del Padre Amaro y Che.  Recently he has been exposed to a wider American audience with his recurring role as Esteban Reyes, the corrupt mayor of Tijuana in the Showtime series Weeds.

The film also stars Jose Julian, Chelsea Rendon, Dolores Heredia and Joaquín Cosío, (II).