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Movies That Matter Presents: A Better Life

By Carol Boyd

Carlos is an undocumented Mexican immigrant who works as a gardener tending the lawns of Los Angeles residents who are rich, especially from his point of view. He lives from hand to mouth and day to day in a tiny house whose garden is used to raise starter plants for his clients. His wife left some years ago, and he raises his 15-year-old son, Luis, by himself.

These two men are being pulled apart by life in America. Carlos (Demian Bichir) keeps a low profile, works hard, holds traditional values. Luis (Jose Julian) hasn’t joined a gang in his neighborhood yet, but that would seem to be his trajectory. He misses school, he quietly considers his dad an irrelevant loser, and when he asks for money and there isn’t any, he knows how to get under his father’s skin.

The action escalates when Carlos is given an opportunity to attain the “better life” by buying his own landscaping business.  In a low key, observant way, A Better Life provides a tour of Los Angeles, not the L.A. of Sunset Boulevard or Rodeo Drive, but the L.A. of restaurants where the kitchen staff is undocumented, of Mexican rodeos, of gang territory, of marginal workers who are essential to the city’s economy.

Directed by Chris Weitz, A Better Life will be shown on Tuesday, August 21, at 4:30 pm, and will be followed by a discussion.

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