February 25, 2012
I was only interested to watch "A Better Life" because of the Best Actor Oscar nomination given its "unknown" (to me, at least) lead actor, Demian Bichir. Before watching the film, I did not even know what nationality Mr. Bichir was. I even thought he might be from the Middle East. Although the title was suggestive enough, I did not have an idea what the movie would be about.
This is about a Mexican father who wishes for nothing more than "a better life" for his son, even if it means resorting to illegal immigration into the United States. He buys a truck to help his "illegal" gardening business progress, knowing fully well the risks if he was discovered. He also struggles to bond with his head-strong Americanized 14-year old son, who also struggles to resist peer pressure among the Latino gangs in East LA. I will not spoil the story anymore from here.
Coming from the Third World myself, the story is something very familiar. I did not really find anything extraordinary about the whole film. It felt like a B made-for-TV family drama movie. The actors were generally amateurish, especially the young actor playing the son (Jose Julian). As for Mr. Demian Bichir, does he deserve the Oscar nomination? Okay, he is quite good, especially in those scenes where he shows desperation and despair. But overall, for me, it is nothing we have not already seen before in dramas like this.