Monday, 20 February, 2012

A better life - a review

There are these rare times, when a movie comes along and lifts your spirit with its freshness. There is nothing extraordinary about it. Infact, it is so excellently ordinary that it's beautifully special. A Better Life chronicles the story of Carlos Galindo, a mexican immigrant father struggling to make ends meet, to give his son Luis what he couldn't accord himself. Carlos works as a gardener/landscaper, tending the manicured lawns of LA's rich. However, with his employer Blasco returning to Mexico, Carlos is out of work, and is forced to wait with other immigrant workers, waiting for an employer to call them out. The day wears on, leaving just Carlos and one other old worker - Santiago, still waiting.

Carlos admires the view perched atop a palm tree

Luis doesn't think too highly of his father's toils, and in the company of his girlfriend Ruthie, leans dangerously close to joining one of the local gangs, who are relatives of Ruthie. Realizing that he is left with no other choice, Carlos asks his sister - Anita for help to buy Blasco's truck, so that he could run the landscaping operations. Carlos sees this truck as a means to give his family a new lease on life. In a cruel twist, the truck is stolen from Carlos, leaving him shattered. Luis joins his father in the hunt for the lost automobile. Luis who is more streetsmart doesn't see eye to eye with his father's straightforward, almost naive manner of dealing with people. The movie's strength is in the portrayal of the relationship between the two, riding on exceptionally natural acting by the two lead actors.

This is not a movie with an overload of melodrama. It's not a movie that raises the issue of immigration. The story line is quite predictable. What sets it apart is the extremely real and touching way the characters are sketched. You feel their angst, you understand their frustration and the simple joys they share. The story feels very real and human, an uncommon trait in movies of today. There is an underlying hope throughout the movie, that strives to bring out the goodness in all of us, and Chris Weitz has done a brilliant job of making a touching film which is definitely one of the year's best movies. Hard to believe that his last film was Twilight New moon! Bichir's moving portrayal of the single father has earned him a worthy oscar nomination, and I have a feeling it will stay only that, a nomination. For true gems like this performance are seldom rewarded over more recognised names.

"Why did you have me? Why do these poor people have children?" asks a frustrated Luis. "Don't say that Mijo" dismisses the offended father. In the last minutes of the movie, Carlos answers his son's question - "Because I love you.You are the most important thing in this world to me, mijo.I wanted you to be able to be anything you wanted to be. That would make me feel worthy. If you became somebody. That's why I had you. For me."

It's beautiful. Watch it.

Father and son