Just finished watching Chris Weitz’ immigrant drama ‘A Better Life’ and I find myself without a whole lot interesting or insightful to say but I’m compelled to write some kind of review because its clearly one of those small movies that only gets seen when word of mouth pushes it around. Without any movie stars (I recognized lead Demian Bichir from a few seasons of ‘Weeds’ and no one else registered) or hype it’s not a mystery why people haven’t seen it en masse.
It’s also no mystery as to why people are talking about it. Bichir gives a wonderful performance as a character we have, admittedly, seen before. The father who just wants his child to have a better life than he had for himself is practically an archetype at this point. It’s surely a character (and person) who has existed forever but something about it feels wholly American to me which is sort of perfect because Bichir finds himself in big trouble mostly because his lifestyle exists just outside American law.
The illegal immigrant conversation is one that has developed more rapidly then ever in recent years but this is the first time I was able to think about it in this context:
Americans have always loved their heroes to play outside the rules. Westerns, noirs, comic book movies… No one really wants to watch a movie about law and order as much as they want to watch Charles Bronson get his own revenge. Or Clint Eastwood. Or Batman.
There isn’t anything as flashy or exciting about Bichir’s struggle in ‘A Better Life’ but I feel myself having similar emotions. He lives in my country illegally but when he calls this land “home” in the film, I never bat an eye. It’s his home as much as mine. Is it because the law says so? Obviously not. But just like we cheer when Eastwood gets his man despite breaking all kinds of laws, I can’t help but feel pride for someone who breaks an immigration law for every possible right reason. I don’t know that the film changed my opinions on any political front (It doesn’t aim to do that, either. It’s more concerned with telling its story) but I certainly experienced a perspective I hadn’t before. Congratulations to the filmmakers on that.
Also, I’m a sucker for a father/son movie. Cried only a little.