Every parent wants something special for his or her child. For the father in the movie A Better Life, directed by Chris Weitz, providing opportunities for his child is a point of pride. The story of evolving love between a father and son also puts a human spin on the current U.S. immigration crisis and the families that suffer because of it. As with life, it gets complicated for the pair who must adapt to external changes in the father’s professional situation.
The kind-hearted, hard-working and loving father, Carlos Galindo, played by Demian Bichir, almost never takes advantage of anyone, but is virtually invisible to his son, who lives a sheltered life until unforeseen circumstances catapults the pair into transition. The father’s hardships and struggle to give his son “a better life” ultimately result in an emotional and psychological transformation for the teenager who had previously taken almost everything in his life for granted. The son learns to respect his father for using his kindness and compassion in dealing with others rather than relying on anger and violence, a response to life that the son previously admired and believed to be the solutions to life’s problems. As the pair rides buses around LA, they form a new bond and begin to understand each other, the father’s spirit triumphing over their circumstances, because he refuses to give up, inspiring his son in the process.
While sad and scary at times, A Better Life wields those emotions to reveal things that often remain unseen—like how complicated life can be. The film uses the heart as a lens to provide a cultural commentary on society’s solution to continental migration when it spotlights the gritty insides of a detention center, expanding the story beyond the father-son duo to dwell on the human condition and the plight of families separated by borders. Because of the compassionate realism, A Better Life is a spiritually-uplifting and powerful look at family and society that all adults should see.