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A Better Life

A poignant drama about illegal Mexcian immigrants

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American familia: Jos Julin and Demin Bichir
  • American familia: Jos Julin and Demin Bichir

The path to citizenship for illegal immigrants won't be won by capturing hearts and minds, because those who oppose it don't have any. It will take statistics about how our economy would collapse if we tried to deport 12 million laborers (which would be impossible anyway). Director Chris Weitz doesn't make that case in A Better Life, so we can only enjoy his drama for what it is: a poignant slice of life about Carlos (Demián Bichir), a Mexican man living in Los Angeles against the odds and the law, hiding in plain sight amidst our underground economy, and his American-born teen-age son, Luis (talented newcomer José Julián). The film has a twist that allows Weitz to focus on the emerging relationship between father and son, and especially the danger faced by Luis, who occupies the periphery of a world of gangs and drugs. The kids talk about two things -- getting rich and getting killed -- and Weitz builds tension into a story that threatens to lead Carlos and Luis anywhere. The balanced ending is about what could happen to them, not what will -- which is, I suppose, the definition of hope. In English and Spanish, with subtitles. Starts Fri., July 15. AMC Loews (Harry Kloman)

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