A Better Life

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A Better Life
A Better Life.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Chris Weitz
Produced by Paul Junger Witt
Christian McLaughlin
Chris Weitz
Jami Gertz
Screenplay by Eric Eason
Story by Roger L. Simon
Starring Demián Bichir
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography Javier Aguirresarobe
Edited by Peter Lambert
Lime Orchard Productions
Distributed by Summit Entertainment
Release date
  • June 24, 2011 (2011-06-24)
Running time
94 minutes
Country United States
Language Spanish
Budget $10 million[1]
Box office $1,759,252[1]

A Better Life is a 2011 American drama film directed by Chris Weitz and written by Eric Eason. It is based on Roger L. Simon's story and follows an illegal American immigrating gardener and his son finding their stolen rent-to-own truck. Demián Bichir was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.


Carlos Galindo works as a gardener in Los Angeles. His son, Luis, studies at high school. He spends time with the gang members, who congregated him. Though Luis does not follow his footstep, he learns for education. However, this forces him to become a gang member.

Carlos' sister, Anita, lends $12,000 from the family's emergency fund for Carlos to buy Blasco's truck. It is later stolen by Santiago, whom Carlos hired. The next day, Carlos and Luis head to the South Central apartment complex, where it is used as lodgings for undocumented immigrant workers. One man tells the two that Santiago works as a nightclub dishwasher. Carlos and Luis head to the restaurant, which would open during the night. At the rodeo, Luis mentions to Carlos about his mother abandoning them. He dislikes Mexican music and culture. After finding Santiago at the nightclub, Carlos and Luis interrogate with him. They learn that he has sold the truck to the garage and sent the money to his family to El Salvador. Luis becomes upset at Carlos for defending the man and leaves the restaurant. The next day, Carlos convinces Luis to have a second chance. When they successfully retrieve the truck, they are caught by the police.

Carlos is arrested and incarcerated as one of the illegal immigrants. In prison, Luis reconciles with Carlos. When they promise each other that he will return, Carlos boards the deportation bus. Luis spends time with the family, while Carlos and other undocumented immigrants head through the desert.



The film is uncommon among Hollywood productions set in a Hispanic community and it features an almost entirely Hispanic cast.[2] Weitz used the film to explore the culture and geography of Los Angeles. Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries, run by former gang members, helped Weitz and his crew with finding locations and making their film as authentic as possible. The language of the script was modified to reflect the actual slang used in Los Angeles, even reflecting linguistic differences from street to street.[2]


The film was released on June 24, 2011.

Critical reception[edit]

Critical response to A Better Life has been positive. The film has garnered an 86% "fresh" rating from Rotten Tomatoes.[3] The critical aggregator Metacritic awarded the film a score of 64 out of 100, signifying "generally positive reviews".[4] Demián Bichir was nominated for an Academy Award as lead actor on January 24, 2012. Manola Dargis, film critic for The New York Times, called the film "Touching and startling."[5] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called the film "a haunting movie that gets under your skin."[6] Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Dave Karger called A Better Life an "unfussy, yet quite powerful drama with a terrific central performance by Demián Bichir." Karger called the film an "awards contender" and wrote, "With the right reviews and commercial reception, it could go even further."[7]

Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote that "the performances are pitch perfect" and he gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4.[8] The New Yorker critic Richard Brody wrote: "The story unfolds without hagiography, pity, or trumped-up heroism, as the filmmaker approaches the lives of everyday people with modest compassion and imaginative sympathy.[9] Amy Biancolli, writing in the Houston Chronicle, said "It's straight, true and heartbreaking, a masterstroke of raw emotional minimalism".[10]


Award Category Recipient(s) Result
Academy Award Best Actor in a Leading Role Demián Bichir Nominated
Independent Spirit Award Best Male Lead Demián Bichir Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role Demián Bichir Nominated
Young Artist Award[11] Best Performance in a Feature Film - Leading Young Actor José Julián Nominated

Telenovela version[edit]

Telemundo produced a telenovela, Bajo el mismo cielo, starring Gabriel Porras and María Elisa Camargo.[12][13] The series aired from July 28, 2015 to January 25, 2016.[14]


  1. ^ a b A Better Life at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ a b Cieply, Michael (June 1, 2010). "Another Los Angeles in 'Gardener'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 5, 2010. Retrieved June 2, 2010. 
  3. ^ A Better Life at Rotten Tomatoes
  4. ^ A Better Life at Metacritic
  5. ^ Dargis, Manola (June 23, 2011). "A Better Life". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ Travers, Peter (June 23, 2011). "A Better Life". Rolling Stone Magazine. 
  7. ^ Dave Karger (March 13, 2011). "'A Better Life': 2011's first awards movie?". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 13, 2011. 
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger. ""A Better Life" Review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved July 6, 2011. 
  9. ^ Brody, Richard. "A Better Life Film Review". New Yorker Magazine. Retrieved June 19, 2011. 
  10. ^ Biancolli, Amy. "A Better Life Film Review". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved July 4, 2011. 
  11. ^ "33rd Annual Young Artist Awards". YoungArtistAwards.org. Archived from the original on April 4, 2012. Retrieved March 31, 2012. 
  12. ^ Telemundo. "Carlos Martínez" (in Spanish). Retrieved June 25, 2015. 
  13. ^ Gabriel Porras. "Gracias cómplices por el gran apoyo a este humilde jardinero!!! Va con todo para ustedes!!!!!" (in Spanish). Twitter. Retrieved February 3, 2015. 
  14. ^ ""Bajo el mismo cielo", la nueva novela de Telemundo" (in Spanish). Telemunco.com. March 25, 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 

External links[edit]