I wanted to see “Chronicle” but the screening was a 4 o’clock in the afternoon. How is that convenient for anyone? I had no interest in the Harry Potter meets a ghost movie or the Drew Barrymore loves whales film so I took the week off.
Still, I had to do something to fill the Friday report hole. I looked through the Oscar nominees and noticed that some guy named Demian Bichir scored a Best Actor nom for his role in some film called “A Better Life.” I think I have a copy of that in my pile. I do. Well, that will give me something to talk about and I don’t have to leave my couch to do it.
A Better Life
Carlos Galindo (Demian Bichir) is a hard-working, struggling-to-get-by gardener living in a small house in East L.A. He sleeps on the couch so his teenage son Luis (José Julián) can have the one bedroom.
Carlos’ boss is retiring soon and wants to sell him his truck along with all his tools and customers. Carlos doesn’t have the money and doesn’t want the profile of owning a vehicle. One traffic stop would reveal that he is an illegal alien.
But without the truck Carlos will be without a job. One day struggling to find work leaves him desperate to find the cash. His sister gives him her daughter’s college fund money, confident he will be a success and pay her back. Complications ensue, but I’ll leave you to discover that on your own.
To say “A Better Life” was one of the fine overlooked films of 2011 would be an understatement. I hadn’t heard of it until I got a copy at the start of awards season. It turns out it’s a low-key but powerful movie about the lengths a father will go through to make a better life for his son.
At the heart of it is a terrific performance by Bichir. His character comes off as haggard but determined and hopeful in spite of all the obstacles in his way. And despite those challenges, Carlos never gives in to anger or bitterness or violence. It’s an inspiring and touching piece of acting.