Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"A Better Life" with Demian Bichir (2011)

Carlos Galindo, played by Demian Bichir, is an illegal immigrant living in Los Angeles with his son José, played by José Julián. The boy’s mother deserted the family soon after arriving in the United States. She wanted more out of her new life than Carlos was able to initially provide. So, she left him to raise the boy on his own, in the minefield that is Los Angeles. When Carlos’ boss (another illegal) decides to sell his truck and move back to Mexico with the money he has earned here; Carlos is faced with the option of buying the truck, or looking for more work by the day; standing on the corners.

After several days of trying to find employment, Carlos manages to borrow $12,000 dollars from his sister in order to buy the truck from his old boss. The risks are great. As an illegal he faces arrest and deportation at every turn in his daily life. If he is caught, he will lose the truck to the authorities, as well as the ability to reimburse his sister for the money she has lent him without her husband’s knowledge.
As Carlos is facing these obstacles, his son is facing challenges of his own at school, where the pressures to “man up” and join a gang are weighing heavily upon him. He has little respect for his father’s values, considering him to be akin to a beggar, while the gangs take what they want.

When Carlos’ truck is stolen, his son uses his knowledge of the streets and barrios of South Central Los Angeles to help his father locate the stolen vehicle. Together, they are successful and recover the vehicle, only to be pulled over in a traffic stop which will change their lives forever.

Deported for his illegal status, Carlos is sent back to Mexico without Jose, who is now living with Carlos’ sister. But blood ties are never thin, and Carlos finds himself locked in a cycle, attempting to enter the United States again, in order to raise his son.
This is a very moving film, highlighting the dilemma faced by so many illegal immigrants today. Caught between the law and the lure of the gangs, their road is a hard one. This is an excellent film.

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