A Better Life: Every Father Wants More for His Son (2011)

Posted: February 10, 2012 in Drama

Attempting to live a quiet life with his son in East L.A., Carlos Galindo simply wants to provide the best life he can for his son. As a gardener, he used to wait to get picked up off of the street corner for work but has since been partnered with a good friend, Blasco Martinez. With no papers and virtually no money, Carlos has to keep his head down and avoid getting noticed. One day, Blasco tells Carlos that he has earned enough money to move back to Mexico and set himself up with a nice life with a farm. After some convincing and his ability to find the money, Carlos agrees to purchase the truck and start earning some real money. Meanwhile, his son, Luis, cannot seem to keep himself out of trouble. With his father busy working every day, Luis has found himself the wrong crowd and been found responsible for bullying on multiple occasions. When Carlos picks up one of the other men for some gardening work after getting the truck, the man steals it, leaving Carlos with no money and no means to earn any.

Starring: Demian Bichir (Carlos Galindo), Jose Julian (Luis Galindo), Joaquin Cosio (Blasco Martinez), Nancy Lenehan (Mrs. Donnely), Bobby Soto (Facundo), Chelsea Rendon (Ruthie Valdez), Gabriel Chavarria (Ramon), Eddie Sotelo (himself)

As a nominee for Best Actor in the upcoming Oscars, Demian Bichir puts an interesting spin on being undocumented and a single father. While undocumented men and women try not to get caught and deported, Bichir adds humility to the role that makes you feel for his plight. In addition to his challenges with his own life, his love for his son is distorted only by the amount he has to work to support their existence. He is compassionate and humble, even in a menial lifestyle. Luis is played by Jose Julian, who puts together both a sense of teenage angst and gang-related influence. He both rejects his father’s existence and attempts to show his appreciation at the same time, though at time a little exaggerated. Dolores Heredia provides solid support as Bichir’s sister. Her sense of charity provides several emotional moments with both Bichir’s and Julian’s characters. As the friend, Joaquin Cosio has a more playful, imaginative element that helps to cement to more prosperous early scenes of the film.

In this human drama piece by Chris Weitz, Carlos’s life brings more definition to the struggles of the undocumented population in the US. His story began with his arrival in the states and an incident where his lawyer took him for nearly everything. Abandoned by his wife, Carlos was left to care for their son and do so without the ability to receive any real assistance. Life has taught him to stay low and out of trouble. While the prospect of making more money with his own truck is inspiring, he is also concerned about the possibility of attracting attention. Regardless, he only wants to work hard and provide for the family. Even as he falls into trouble, he refuses to punish those who committed wrongful deeds. This ends up being a point of contention for him and his son, as Luis feels intense anger over the man who stole the truck and his troubled relationship with his aunt. Though he periodically has to take some illegal actions to preserve his income, he does so with honorable intentions.

His son shows a bit of the anomaly of Latino youth in undocumented situations. While he is able to attend school and is provided for by his father, he also still lives in the rough part of town and attends a school that does little to support his development. With teenage gang-wantabes roaming the halls, Luis gets caught up with Ruthie Valdez, who’s brother happens to be a member of a gang. Tempted by the lifestyle, he and his friend Facundo consider the option of going through initiation. For Luis, it is a way for him to not become his father and provide for himself. When Carlos comes home after losing the truck, the other side Luis comes out and he lets himself reconnect with his father. Though the rough street life has influenced his anger and behavior toward others, he also takes in a fraction of the compassion from Carlos.

Though this film takes place over a very short period of time, the acting of Demian Birchir and the spotlight on a life less understood make for a very engaging and entertaining story.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5

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