Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Movie Review: A Better Life - Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part review of A Better Life. The first part dealt more with the background issue of illegal immigration, whereas this part focuses more on the movie itself.

In the movie, neither the illegal (representative of all illegals, but particularly those with upright motives) nor the police (representative of the legal system, including courts, prisons, and immigration) is entirely at fault. Both are stuck in an imperfect, human system.

The viewer is led to sympathize with the illegal man, an honest landscaper who wants nothing but to work hard so that his one son can have a better life. He's away from home; his wife left him when his son was little; he has next to nothing; when he does acquire something (a lawn business and pickup with equipment) it gets stolen from him. And yet, the movie does not excuse what he does wrong nor does it try to show him as a man victimized and ruined by the consequences of his actions.

Apart from the social issue of the film and the plight of many illegals in the U.S., the movie also has simply great acting. The father-son dynamic is beautiful, a word one might usually use of a mother-daughter relationship in a film.

In addition to the acting, the setting and language are extremely fitting. It is set in urban Los Angeles, and the mix of Spanish and English (including street language in both) is pitch perfect. It is an English-language film, but it naturally switches to Spanish with English subtitles on occasion, yet this is never awkward or unnatural. The highest praise that can be given to all of these elements--language, setting, acting--is that they contribute to the storyline and never distract. I only thought about them when I tried to so that I could analyze the film.

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