A few months back, I wrote a little review for A Better Life, the 2011 movie for which Demian Bichir was nominated for an Oscar. At the time, I hadn’t yet seen Vittorio De Sica’s classic The Bicycle Thief (it should be noted that the film is titled The Bicycle Thief on Netflix but Bicycle Thieves on IMDb). It doesn’t change the review now that I have seen the italian film, but I certainly would have referenced it in that review. A Better Life borrows heavily from the older movie, right down to the strained father-son dynamic. Thematically, they make for interesting companion pieces.
Impoverished Antonio searches for his stolen bicycle, his family’s only hope of survival, in post WWII Italy in the older movie. Last year’s film followed Carlos, an illegal immigrant who searches for his stolen truck, his only chance at making a living and staying with his family in America. Drawing a comparison to contemporary American immigrants to war-ravage Romans from the 40’s makes A Better Life even a little richer (although, the novelty of the story has disappeared which is a shame).
The Bicycle Thief’s indifference to right and wrong is staggering. The cold-blooded reality is surely tragic. The film’s story is too compelling to not break your heart. The more I think about it, A Better Life could well have been considered a remake.