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Film Review: A Better Life * *

Mexican actor Demián Bichir really is a versatile and charismatic performer, and he's about the only thing that Chris Weitz's clumsy drama A Better Life has going for it.

He plays Carlos Galindo, who has been living illegally in east Los Angeles for 16 years, and is the sole parent and provider for his teenage son, Luis (José Julián).

He ekes out a living tending rich people's gardens with a more established partner, who owns a truck. But when he announces he's going back to the old country, Carlos is faced with a dilemma. If he buys the truck he'll keep his partner's clients, but will run the risk of being deported if he's stopped by cops and asked for his licence. But if he does nothing, his meagre income will disappear. Meanwhile, his once studious son has begun skipping school and consorting with boys on the fringes of the Mexican gang culture. So Carlos must fight to save his livelihood, but also to ensure a better, brighter future for his son.

Worthy and earnest and pretty boring to look at, A Better Life feels like one of those dull but well-meaning TV movies with a conscience.

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