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Better Life, A (12A)


A gardener in East L.A. struggles to keep his son away from gangs and immigration agents while trying to give his son the opportunities he never had.

The critical consensus

Ultimately it is Mexican star Demián Bichir’s low-key but solidly wrought performance as the unlucky, ever-trustful Carlos that pulls the film through its longueurs and pointless diversions.

***(*)(*)Paul Dale, The List, 21/07/2011

An interesting exploration of class struggle which recalls classics like Bicycle Thieves but doesn't quite live up to them.

***(*)(*)Eve Barlow, Empire Online, 25/07/2011

If the father/son relationship follows a tried-and-true trajectory, its obvious debt to Bicycle Thieves is repaid with sincere sentiment and strong acting.

***(*)(*)Tom Dawson, Total Film, 27/07/2011

A Better Life, at certain points, does play like a better-than-average television movie. This is mostly to do with the low-key feel of the piece rather than any lack of ambition on Weitz’s part. The style fits with the story, and for the most part it works. Indeed, it’s only when the tale overheats at the end that the picture loses its way.

***(*)(*)Alison Rowat, The Herald, 28/07/2011

Mexican star Demian Bichir carries it all with a measured performance of considerable emotion as the dad, clenched by so many years holding his breath, waiting for the knock at the door.

***(*)(*)Cath Clarke, The Guardian, 28/07/2011

Not as insightful as it could’ve been but something to chew on for those who like their social commentary a touch on the light and fluffy side.

***(*)(*)Jason Goodyer, Little White Lies, 28/07/2011's also fresh, human, insightful, moving.

Nigel Andrews, Financial Times, 28/07/2011

Simple, powerful but an awkward finale.

Paul Greenwood, Evening Times, 28/07/2011

Favouring character development over wham-bam action, it's a solid father-son bonding experience and one where we grow to like and relate to the characters and come to understand the struggles of the city's unseen workforce, with much of the drama taking place under harsh sodium lights.

****(*)Daily Record, 29/07/2011

The bigger picture of America’s unacknowledged population of illegal workers is very much a backdrop to the sentimental saga of a father and son’s stoical struggle against impossible odds.

***(*)(*)Allan Hunter, Daily Express, 29/07/2011

It is sincerely and honourably made, with a lovely performance by Bichir as the long-suffering Carlos, but a little more nuance would not have gone amiss.

***(*)(*)Anthony Quinn, The Independent, 29/07/2011

The whole is unusually, commendably sincere about its characters, and the tale it tells. Modest as A Better Life may be in scope, it commits wholeheartedly to achieving the goal of socially conscious cinema: to make visible the previously unseen.

***(*)(*)Mike McCahill, The Scotsman, 30/07/2011

It's a small, convincing, tightly constructed movie about an urgent, seemingly insoluble problem.

Philip French, The Observer, 31/07/2011

Features about Better Life, A (12A)

Chris Weitz: once upon a time in East LA

Chris Weitz, The Guardian, 28/07/2011

Better Life, A (12A)

Where and when?

General release. Check local listings for show times.

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