WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME you saw a movie featuring virtually no white people? In A Better Life, the few Caucasians who make it onscreen at all are wearing either suits or uniforms. The film (which, oddly enough, is directed by Chris Weitz, best known for American Pie and Twilight: New Moon) is exclusively immersed in the Latino culture of Los Angeles, from high-school gangs to family-friendly rodeos to the undocumented workers who staff gardening crews and dish pits.
In a nutshell, A Better Life is a movie about a Mexican immigrant, in the US illegally, who is the sole supporter of his teenaged son. The title is ironic.
Carlos (Demián Bechir) dreams of starting his own gardening business and of one day moving to a house where he doesn't have to sleep on the couch. He's just nervously paid far too much to purchase a truck and some gardening supplies—the purchase is an especially nervous one because the undocumented Carlos doesn't have a license. So when the truck is stolen, he has no recourse other than tracking down the thief himself. Enlisting the help of his son Luis (José Julián), the two go on a montage-heavy search for the truck—along the way mining some comedy and conflict from their two very different approaches to problem solving. (Carlos is slow-moving and respectful; Luis is quick to violence and calling people "bitch.")
Given the current political climate in regards to immigration, there is absolutely no way to make a happily-ever-after about people who live in constant fear of being deported, separated from their families, and sent back to a country they no longer consider their own. To its vast credit, A Better Life doesn't do its audience the disservice of pretending otherwise.