Itís really too bad that A BETTER LIFE didnít find more of an audience, as it really is a terrific film. Director Chris Weitz, after spending the last few years working on big-budget, soulless films like THE GOLDEN COMPASS and NEW MOON, rebounds nicely in with a film thatís easily his finest since ABOUT A BOY.
Itís worth noting that A BETTER LIFE is actually a modernized remake of the classic Italian Neorealism film, BICYCLE THIEVES (aka- THE BICYCLE THIEF). The bike is replaced by a truck, but other than that the soul of the film remains intact. Both follow a kind-hearted working man, whose only dream is to provide for his family, but his own goodness and trust in others leads to his downfall.
In the lead, Demian Bichir is a revelation. Mostly known in North America for his arc as Nancy Botwinís cartel-kingpin husband Estaban on WEEDS, A BETTER LIFE reveals Bichirís substantial talent in a performance that deserves serious Oscar consideration. Heís amazing, as a humble man, beaten down by life who, nevertheless, manages to hold on to his compassion. Thereís a great scene late in the film where him and his son find one of the men responsible for stealing his truck. His son, raised in the LA gang-culture, starts to beat the man who hurt his family, but Bichir- even though his life has been irreparably damaged by this man, begs his son to stop, and treats the man with compassion. Itís a great scene in a great film.