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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

A Better Life

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

Carlos (Demián Bichir) works as a gardener in East Los Angeles. His boss, Blasco (Joaquin Cosio) is an undocumented worker like himself, but who has saved enough money to return to Mexico. He convinces Carlos to borrow money to buy the truck  and his client list. Carlos turns to his sister (Dolores Heredia), who has legal status because of her marriage, and she gives him money she has saved for a rainy day.

Carlos is raising his teenaged son Luis (Jose Julian) alone. Luis was born in the U.S. but his mother left the family early on. Carlos sleeps on the couch so his son can have his own room, like a normal kid. Jose is surly and unappreciative toward his father and is trying to join a gang.

Carlos seems fulfilled as he drives his truck past the crowd of day workers hoping to be hired. He chooses a man who had once shared his lunch with Carlos as they both waited for someone to hire them. Then disaster strikes. Director Chris Weitz (“About a Boy”), with a nod to the Vittorio de Sica 1948 film “Bicycle Thieves”,  notches up the anxiety level when the man steals Carlos’ truck. Without his truck, Carlos will lose everything he has gained to make a better life for his son.

The rest of the film shows Carlos and Jose searching for the truck demonstrating smart detective skills with few resources, Jose flirting with gang membership and loyalty to his father, and evading the immigration authorities.

“A Better Life” asks the audience to consider what it is like to come from a place of little or opportunity to make a better life. The issue of undocumented workers, or as they are often referred to as “illegal immigrants” or “Illegal aliens”, is a touchy one in the United States today. Yet, the situation of undocumented workers, or those whose parents are undocumented but whose children were born in the U.S., who contribute much to our country by doing work no one else will do, as well as building up church participation, is precisely where Christian discipleship and authentic citizenship intersect; they are compatible – not mutually exclusive.  As followers of Jesus we can help create a way forward that is just for all.
“A Better Life” is a touching film, and some may think it is heavy on message. The acting is good, and held my interest from the very beginning. Some may take issue with the ending, however, people are resilient, and the bonds of family very strong.


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Martha: Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus were evidently close friends of Jesus. He came to their home simply as a welcomed guest, rather than as one celebrating the conversion of a sinner like Zacchaeus or one unceremoniously received by a suspicious Pharisee. The sisters feel free to call on Jesus at their brother’s death, even though a return to Judea at that time seems almost certain death. 
<p>No doubt Martha was an active sort of person. On one occasion (see Luke 10:38-42) she prepares the meal for Jesus and possibly his fellow guests and forthrightly states the obvious: All hands should pitch in to help with the dinner. </p><p>Yet, as biblical scholar Father John McKenzie points out, she need not be rated as an “unrecollected activist.” The evangelist is emphasizing what our Lord said on several occasions about the primacy of the spiritual: “...[D]o not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear…. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:25b, 33a); “One does not live by bread alone” (Luke 4:4b); “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” (Matthew 5:6a). </p><p>Martha’s great glory is her simple and strong statement of faith in Jesus after her brother’s death. “Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world’” (John 11:25-27).</p> American Catholic Blog One of the difficulties we may have when our lives become unmanageable is that we find dealing with other people to be difficult and we may even struggle to maintain a relationship with God. Caring people especially can find themselves carrying unnecessary crosses as they become lost in the maze of trying to meet everyone’s crazy expectations—including their own!

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