A Better Life
By Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
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
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
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
“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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