Nominations: 1 (Best Actor: Demián Bichir)
Availability in the US: On DVD and Blu-ray
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for some violence, language and brief drug use
Carlos (Demián Bichir), a gardener in East Los Angeles, struggles to keep his 14-year-old son away from gangs and immigration agents while trying to give his son the opportunities he never had.
Demián Bichir, best known to American audiences as politician-turned-gangster Esteban Reyes on Showtime's Weeds, turns in a heartwrenching performance as he tries to give his son Luis a chance to live in a better neighborhood, go to a better school, and make something of himself, all while evading deportation over his illegal immigration status. Few films have done a good job of showing the plight of the migrant worker, but A Better Life steps up in this department. Audiences feel Carlos' frustration at the very limited resources available to him and worry along with him that his son may be falling in with the wrong crowd.
Actors very rarely win Oscars as the only nominee representing a particular film—the last to do it was Penelope Cruz in 2009's Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Furthermore, Bichir, hardly a household name, is competing against the likes of Brad Pitt and George Clooney, as well as Jean Dujardin who, while also not well known, is at least in a film people have seen.Grade: A-