A Better Life


(2011) ★★★

Channel4: PREMIERE Sunday 14 June, 1.45am

Trials and tribulations of Demián Bichir, an undocumented Mexican gardener in East LA. José Julián is his 14-year-old son, surly until dad’s truck is stolen. Nothing original (the plot’s basically Bicycle Thieves transplanted), but it’s heartfelt and certainly better than Ken Loach’s patronising sermon, Bread and Roses. The Oscar-nominated Bichir previously portrayed Fidel Castro in Steven Soderbergh’s epic two-part biopic flop Che and was seen to much less advantage in Oliver Stone’s misbegotten Savages. The biggest surprise is that this modestly affecting film is the work of Chris Weitz, who went from American Pie to About a Boy, and bounced back from The Golden Compass (the film that killed New Line Cinema) with the easy box-office pickings of The Twilight Saga: New Moon. Nothing, in other words, to suggest he was the right man to helm this picture. A sheen of prestige was assured when Alexandre Desplat was commissioned to write the score.

Certificate: 12
Duration: 98min