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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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Jeanne Jugan: 
		<p>Born in northern France during the French Revolution—a time when congregations of women and men religious were being suppressed by the national government, Jeanne would eventually be highly praised in the French academy for her community's compassionate care of elderly poor people.</p>
		<p>When Jeanne was three and a half years old, her father, a fisherman, was lost at sea. Her widowed mother was hard pressed to raise her eight children (four died young) alone. At the age of 15 or 16, Jeanne became a kitchen maid for a family that not only cared for its own members, but also served poor, elderly people nearby. Ten years later, Jeanne became a nurse at the hospital in Le Rosais. Soon thereafter she joined a third order group founded by St. John Eudes (August 19).</p>
		<p>After six years she became a servant and friend of a woman she met through the third order. They prayed, visited the poor and taught catechism to children. After her friend's death, Jeanne and two other women continued a similar life in the city of Saint-Sevran. In 1839, they brought in their first permanent guest. They began an association, received more members and more guests. Mother Marie of the Cross, as Jeanne was now known, founded six more houses for the elderly by the end of 1849, all staffed by members of her association—the Little Sisters of the Poor. By 1853 the association numbered 500 and had houses as far away as England.</p>
		<p>Abbé Le Pailleur, a chaplain, had prevented Jeanne's reelection as superior in 1843; nine year later, he had her assigned to duties within the congregation, but would not allow her to be recognized as its founder. He was removed from office by the Holy See in 1890. </p>
		<p>By the time Pope Leo XIII gave her final approval to the community's constitutions in 1879, there were 2,400 Little Sisters of the Poor. Jeanne died later that same year, on August 30. Her cause was introduced in Rome in 1970, and she was beatified in 1982 and canonized in 2009. </p>
		<p> </p>
American Catholic Blog The joy of the Lord is our strength. Therefore, each of us will accept a life of poverty in cheerful trust. We will offer cheerful obedience from our inward joy. We will minister to Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor with cheerful devotion. If our work is done with joy, we will have no reason to be unhappy.

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