A Better Life
Time Out says
Dir: Chris Weitz (2012, 98 min). Cast: Demián Bichir, José Julián, Eddie 'Piolin' Sotelo. Opens: Apr 19
Any man can be a father but it takes a special man to be a dad. Carlos (Demián Bichir) – an undocumented Mexican immigrant – is more than a breadwinner in the family. In the absence of his wife (who abandoned him for a wealthier future), Carlos becomes the prime custodian of his US-born-and-raised son Luis (José Julián), an ingrate and surly child who’s cajoled into joining the Hispanic gangbangers. Now the sole nurturer of his hijo, Carlos ekes out a living as a garderner by pruning trees in Los Angeles.
It is among the impoverished that dreams truly matter because in times of adversity, even the slightest hope transforms into strength. And this invisible strength materialises dreams. Carlos is a struggling lone parent, yearning to swap his hard work for a comfier life so that his son can go to a better school and live in a bigger home. He toils all day long, hoping against hope to defy his penurious life. So, he borrows money from his sister to buy a pick-up truck to start off a gardening business…only to find more obstacles that forestall him from living the American Dream.
Director Chris Weitz has turned ‘A Better Life’ into an emotional juggernaut, pitting humanity against impossible odds. The film transmutes hopelessness into stifled desperation, and Demián Bichir delivers these asperities with aplomb in every scene. It makes us wonder if this was the same director involved in the Hollywood flop ‘The Golden Compass’ or the maudlin melodrama ‘Twilight: New Moon’.
This father-and-son film eventually strikes a chord when Luis hurls a ponderous question at his loving father, ‘Why do poor people have kids? Why did you have me?’ Carlos’s answer, which resonates the message and running theme in the film, was…‘Because I love you. Because seeing you become somebody makes me feel worthy as a father.’ Kong Wai Yeng