A BETTER LIFE
Directed by Chris Weitz. Starring Demián Bichir, José Julián, Eddie ‘Piolin’ Sotelo, Joaquín Cosio. 98 mins.
Rating: Two and a half/Five
In cinemas: July 29
POTENTIALLY AFFECTING IMMIGRANT DRAMA SUFFERS A BAD CASE OF PATRONISING WHITE GUILT
In Chris Weitz’s blatant rip-off of The Bicycle Thief, Carlos (Demián Bichir, who recently proved in The Runway that his charm transcends language) is living in L.A. with his rebellious son Juan (the awkward unknown José Julián.) Stuck in the Catch 22 of illegal immigrant life, Carlos must buy a truck to work for citizenship papers. However, until he has his papers, owning the truck is illegal and could result in him being shipped back to Mexico immediately. Either way, he’s incredibly vulnerable, without rights, and dependant on the morality of others to keep his struggling little family safe.
This story of illegal immigrants is one that should be told, but it deserves intricate, understated layers of raw honesty, unflinching realism and believable characters. What Weitz presents us with instead is horribly, clumsily transparent, and unfortunately what is attempting to hide behind montages of The American Dream Realized and sun-lit epiphanies is a serious case of upper-class mostly-white guilt.
With a successful Mexican actress for a grandmother and a Cuban Mexican wife, Weitz is clearly trying to get in touch with his roots. But after blossoming into a Hollywood success story, helped by a large Miracle-Gro dose of his family’s comfortable industry connections, Weitz’s roots are rather far away, and he’s left looking down on them.