A Better Life Review – Absorbing Portrait

It’s one of the depressing aspects of movies that a disproportionate number of them focus on insignificant piffle.

Like romance, for instance.

Try as we might, we can’t get a handle on how generations of moviegoers can watch the same boy-girl love story on the screen for decades just because they bear different titles.

Well, we’ve never taken the sapiens part of Homo Sapiens seriously.

While Bollywood is more susceptible to the siren song of soppy romances, Hollywood too is guilty, on a lesser level, of falling prey to the seductive, meretricious, easy charms of a romance. Hey, who needs the steady affections of a boring wife when you can lie in the fickle embrace of a pretty slut.

So, in the rare instance when we stumble upon a fine movie where love does not occupy center-stage, it’s time to rejoice.

As we did after watching the beautiful movie A Better Life (2011) a little while ago.

Directed by Chris Weitz of The Twilight Saga: New Moon fame, the movie features Demián Bichir and José Julián in the key roles of father and son.

Illegal Immigrants

Most people who can hold a magazine or book or move a mouse know that there’re millions of illegal immigrants in the United States. By some counts as high as 20-million.

The majority of illegal immigrants in America are Hispanics, who come from Mexico and further South in search of a better life. You see them working as gardeners for rich Whites, laying roofs on construction sites, washing dishes in the back of restaurants or huddled together outside Home Depot or near bus-stops in the mornings, desperate for a day’s work.

Toiling in the shadows, forever fearful of being caught and deported, frequently exploited by unscrupulous employers and often targeted by the police and immigration agencies, ‘Mexicans,’ as the illegal Hispanic immigrants are collectively grouped together in America, are a faceless entity, especially outside some of the big cities like L.A. or New York.

A Better Life is the moving, very realistic account of one such ‘invisible’ illegal immigrant Carlos Galindo, who works as a gardener in Los Angeles.

A short slice of his life, to be sure, but so well written that you can easily grasp Carlos’ painful past and peek into his uncertain future.

Besides the daily struggle of eking out a livelihood as an illegal immigrant, Carlos, a single parent whose wife left him long ago for greener pastures, also has to contend with the hard task of keeping his school-going son away from the call of the gangs that have an entrenched presence on the streets and neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

When his employer plans to return to Mexico, Carlos buys his truck and business after borrowing his sister’s lifetime savings of $12,000 in hopes of moving to a better neighborhood and dreaming of a better school for his son.

But happiness is not written in the destinies of some people. Only endless struggle and misery.

And so with Carlos, who runs his truck into a metaphoric pothole on the very first day of owning it.

A misfortune that soon takes a life of its own and ultimately becomes heartrending in its impact.

Demián Bichir, a top actor in Mexico, plays Carlos with remarkable flair, lending to the character of the illegal immigrant a verisimilitude rare in movies of this nature and turning it into a compelling watch.

Some of our astute readers, few as they are, will see in A Better Life a strong resemblance to the old Italian film The Bicycle Thief.

Be that as it may, sometimes the same tale needs to be recounted under different circumstances, different times and to a different audience.

A feat that demands an accomplished team like the talented cast and crew of A Better Life.

SearchIndia.com strongly recommends A Better Life in the sure certainty that this is just the kind of classy, realistic movie Indians will never watch, addicted as most of our countrymen are to monstrous drivel like Bodyguard or Mankatha.

A Better Life is available on DVD at Netflix.

3 Responses to "A Better Life Review – Absorbing Portrait"

  1. shadowfax_arbit   November 18, 2011 at 7:24 am

    Did you like this song from Mayakkam Enna?


    And this is the trailer for the movie


    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    1. We’re greatly fatigued with the endless run of “Kadhal-Failure,” “Uyire Illae,” “Suthudu Suthudu,” “Aye Machchi,” “Adi-da,” “Odhae-da” “Vetra” and songs.

    Do not think the above song is a big deal! 🙁

    2. Regarding the trailer of Mayakkam Enna, the few Dhanush movies we’ve seen have the same elements – Deep Love, ardent passion, frenetic embraces, furtive touching of fingers, sudden bursts of manic rage, wild and incoherent screaming, drinking with friends etc.

    Going by your trailer link, Mayakkam Enna seems no different!

    • vinith   November 20, 2011 at 12:10 am

      Regarding Mayakkam Enna, I wasn’t impressed by the trailer much. But since it’s a Selvaraghavan movie, I hope this movie won’t be just another silly Kollywood movie.

      Btw, have you heard the song “Why this kolaveri di?” from Dhanush’s upcoming movie “3”? Looks like Dhanush himself wrote the lyrics(if you can call it that).

      SearchIndia.com Responds:

      You write: Btw, have you heard the song “Why this kolaveri di?”

      Yes, All sound does not music make. 🙁

      • vinith   November 20, 2011 at 10:51 pm

        Looks like you reaction was “Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri daa?”

        Btw, not surprisingly, this song (cacophony, as you would call it) is already a hit among the youth.

        SearchIndia.com Responds:

        Well, the first criterion for something to become a hit in Incredible India is that it should be shit!

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