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A Better Life (2011)



Average Rating: 7.2/10
Critic Reviews: 35
Fresh: 30 | Rotten: 5

No consensus yet.



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Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 11,996

My Rating

Movie Info

From the director of About a Boy comes A Better Life - a touching, poignant, multi-generational story about a father's love and the lengths a parent will go to give his child the opportunities he never had. -- (C) Summit


Drama, Special Interest

Eric Eason, Roger L. Simon

Oct 18, 2011


Summit Entertainment - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (105) | Top Critics (35) | Fresh (88) | Rotten (16) | DVD (2)

The didacticism takes the shine off Weitz's accomplishment, even if the film builds up enough empathy to generate slow-burning emotional impact.

July 27, 2011 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Bichir delivers a powerful, nuanced performance as a stoic but complex character who treats everyone -- even those who have wronged him -- with a dignity he rarely receives.

July 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
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The people here seem real, their world is shaky at best, and the political tension that permeates everything in this film feels palpable.

July 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
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Bichir redeems the secondhand plot and on-the-nose dialogue.

July 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minneapolis Star Tribune
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Personalizes the illegal immigrant experience and digs much deeper into what has become a national disgrace.

July 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

"A Better Life" might not change any minds about immigration policy, but it illuminates the conversation with context, compassion and understanding.

July 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film's beautiful simplicity is carried massively on the work of Demián Bichir, instantly and surely one of the best performances seen in 2011.

September 14, 2014 Full Review Source:

Well-acted, but quite over-hyped -- a melodramatic Mexican-American version of "Bicycle Thieves."

January 4, 2013 Full Review Source: McClatchy-Tribune News Service
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

A Better Life is a half-step removed from the Hallmark Hall of Fame.

August 26, 2012 Full Review Source: NECN

A Better Life's sense of place and eye for detail are strong, but the too-smooth style and rushed dramatics are at odds with the hardscrabble existence on display.

August 17, 2012 Full Review Source: Reel Times: Reflections on Cinema
Reel Times: Reflections on Cinema

[A] gentle, honest, heartfelt film, but [it] does not have much to offer beyond an earnest respect for a segment of American society that is too often derided...

February 22, 2012 Full Review Source: Flick Filosopher
Flick Filosopher

The silver lining is an excellent lead performance from Bichir.

January 26, 2012 Full Review Source: Cinema Writer
Cinema Writer

A well deserved Oscar nomination for Demian Bichir in a film with echoes of The Bicycle Thief.

January 25, 2012 Full Review Source: Three Movie Buffs
Three Movie Buffs

Each sequence plays out in mind-numbingly cliched fashion: father-son lectures, chin-up resilience-especially the final shot-and a stern message about the heartless anti-immigration movement are depicted in an infuriatingly shallow manner.

December 30, 2011 Full Review Source: Film and Felt | Comments (4)
Film and Felt

Director Chris Weitz has done a credible job of bringing Roger Simon's story and Eric Eason's screenplay to cinematic life.

December 24, 2011 Full Review Source: JWR

it's far too predictable and mundane to carry my interest through the rest of the film

November 13, 2011 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures | Comments (4)
7M Pictures

Although the structure of the film is conventional, the ending of the film is not. Unlike most films, it does have a real hero, Carlos.

November 4, 2011 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

A sympathetic tale about an illegal Mexican.

October 31, 2011 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Essentially a variation on Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief, but it has a vitality and resonance all its own.

August 26, 2011 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Modest as A Better Life may be in scope, it commits wholeheartedly to achieving the goal of socially conscious cinema: to make visible the previously unseen.

August 8, 2011 Full Review Source: Scotsman

A movingly simple and simply moving father-son drama set in downtown LA, refreshingly free of pretentious narrative pyrotechnics. Have a hankie up your sleeve and hang your cynicism up at the door.

July 31, 2011 Full Review Source: Film4

The sentimental saga of a father and son's stoical struggle against impossible odds.

July 31, 2011 Full Review Source: Daily Express
Daily Express

It's a small, convincing, tightly constructed movie about an urgent, seemingly insoluble problem.

July 31, 2011 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

A compassionate, sensitive look at the precarious lives of those off the grid.

July 29, 2011 Full Review Source: Daily Mirror [UK]
Daily Mirror [UK]

It speaks well enough about the fate of immigrants everywhere, especially those who want to work hard but end up being exploited.

July 29, 2011 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

Emotionally engaging immigrant drama enlivened by strong performances from its two leads, but it's slightly undone by an overly predictable script that prevents any real surprises.

July 28, 2011 Full Review Source: ViewLondon

Audience Reviews for A Better Life

Looks at a very real problem with an excellent script that keeps your interest, plays with your emotions, and has some very real insights into a problem incomprehensible to the average American. Shows a son's developing pride for a father who's strength was hidden, even from his son. Academy Award Best Actor nominee Demián Bichir for the part of the father....A very touching film.
May 13, 2012

Super Reviewer

The performance given by Demián Bichir is the absolute definitive highlight of A BETTER LIFE. I wouldn't say he quite deserved to win the Oscar for Best Actor (there were better performances this past year by George Clooney and Jean Dujardin), but he most certainly deserved the nomination that he did get. Bichir may be the only actual cast member who manages to deliver a convincing and authentic role in this entire film, especially when compared to the performance of José Julián as his character's son. It is quite easy to find Galindo as a likeable character and even an agreeable one; this factor seems oddlyenhanced (rather than the opposite) by the fact that he is an illegal immigrant. Had the story been the same, except not about illegal immigrants, and Bichir replaced by another actor, the film would have been a mess.
March 17, 2012

Super Reviewer

Every father wants more for his son

Genuinely moving

This subtle dramatic film is extremely powerful and moving. The sincere realistic tone the movie carries allows us to really understand the difficulties the characters go through and cheer for them to have a better life.

Carlos Galindo (Bichir) is an immigrant gardener in Los Angeles who searches for a better life for himself and his son who faces the difficulties and dilemma of entering a gang. The movie realistically portrays the troubles of Mexican immigrants in the United States, but most importantly show a legit love story between father and son.

This movie is wonderfully composed. Weitz uses his subtle and realistic tone to bring out a depressing yet beautiful story. Not only is the story and the style in which the movie is done brilliant. This movie has some of the most powerful performances of the year. Both Bichir and Julian are extraordinary. They develop complex characters and true chemistry, that as you follow these characters steps you hope just the best for them. The movie is composed with emotional scenes that are tear jerkers. In all honesty I felt the Academy Award made a big mistake by not giving Bichir an award.

This movie is great, beautiful and real, don't miss it. Warning! viewers might be exposed to extreme sadness.

Carlos Galindo: " That's why I had you. For me. For a reason to live."
March 5, 2012

Super Reviewer

Corny telenovela full of one dimensional characters. Next time try to make a better movie.
February 20, 2012
Tsubaki Sanjuro

Super Reviewer

    1. Carlos Galindo: That's why I had you. For me. For a reason to live.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
    1. Carlos Galindo: This truck is my only chance.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
View all quotes (2)

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