Weaves the torpor and anxiety of immigrant life into something dramatically true, if at moments a bit draggy.
Owen Gleiberman - Entertainment Weekly
It's unusual for a director to scale down again as dramatically as Mr. Weitz has with "A Better Life," but it's done him good.
Manohla Dargis - New York Times
No matter where you stand on immigration, A Better Life is must-see viewing, poignantly revealing what it's like living confined to the shadows of contemporary society.
Claudia Puig - USA Today
"A Better Life" might not change any minds about immigration policy, but it illuminates the conversation with context, compassion and understanding.
Ann Hornaday - Washington Post
It's generic and small but manages to reel you in and surprise you with its grimness.
Wesley Morris - Boston Globe
A Better Life takes on the combustible topic of illegal immigration through the soft, safe focus of father-son bonding, with a heavy nod to The Bicycle Thief.
Melissa Anderson - Village Voice
With its careful compositions and message-minded dialogue, Chris Weitz's modest drama feels more earnest than real. Still, its sincerity is admirable, and often touching.
Elizabeth Weitzman - New York Daily News
It's straight, true and heartbreaking, a masterstroke of raw emotional minimalism.
Amy Biancolli - Houston Chronicle
Director Chris Weitz neatly avoids sanctimony by centering the engrossing story on a father-son relationship, letting the audience make up its own mind about the overarching matter of illegal immigration.
Joy Tipping - Dallas Morning News
...a little more sensibility applied to its sensitivity could have brought it to a much better place.
Glenn Kenny - MSN Movies
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.
Richard Brody - New Yorker
The film's trajectory is rather predictable, but then so was the story told by "The Bicycle Thief." But the performances are pitch perfect...
Roger Ebert - Chicago Sun-Times
A major star in Mexico, Bichir is quietly affecting as the father, a humble striver who faces loss at every turn.
Andrea Gronvall - Chicago Reader
A compassionate character study of a man modeling the values of heart, hard work, self-respect, and self-reliance to his spawn.
Carrie Rickey - Philadelphia Inquirer
Bichir redeems the secondhand plot and on-the-nose dialogue.
Colin Covert - Minneapolis Star Tribune
The people here seem real, their world is shaky at best, and the political tension that permeates everything in this film feels palpable.
Tom Long - Detroit News
If we can see how things will play out long before the characters do, it's still powerful and, one gets the feeling, valuable - not just as a document of the immigration struggle but as a film.
Bill Goodykoontz - Arizona Republic
The power in this movie is the way Chris Weitz trusts us to discover the facts for ourselves.
Rex Reed - New York Observer
Despite Demian Bichir's affecting lead performance and a strong feel for Los Angeles' Mexican-American communities, [the film] emerges an earnest and overly programmatic heart-tugger.
Justin Chang - Variety
Weitz keeps the schmaltz in check...
Lou Lumenick - New York Post
Once you get past the cliched Spanglish dialogue and the sentimental tone of the early acts, "A Better Life" settles down into something both involving and moving.
Roger Moore - Orlando Sentinel
Personalizes the illegal immigrant experience and digs much deeper into what has become a national disgrace.
Greg Quill - Toronto Star
Bichir delivers a note-perfect performance of determination, defeat and pride.
William Goss - Film.com
A Better Life has more to offer than good intentions: it's sincere and credible, which is more than I can say about an awful lot of movies. Yet something about it kept me at arm's length: I felt the filmmakers' presence instead of...
Leonard Maltin - indieWIRE
There are moments in Chris Weisz's immigration drama that transcend the familiarity of the material, and others that play directly into it.
Eric Kohn - indieWIRE
Bichir delivers a powerful, nuanced performance as a stoic but complex character who treats everyone -- even those who have wronged him -- with a dignity he rarely receives.
Jennie Punter - Globe and Mail
By keeping things simple and understated, director Chris Weitz and screenwriter Eric Eason have crafted a little gem where humanity is observed with compassion, not condescension.
Kirk Honeycutt - Hollywood Reporter
A fairly satisfying though by-the-numbers drama about an illegal Mexican immigrant struggling to build a decent future for his teenage son.
David Germain - Associated Press
On the surface, the film seems like one of those docudramas that beg to be rewarded solely for their good intentions. But Chris Weitz cuts deep. This movie will get under your skin.
Peter Travers - Rolling Stone
The film's beautiful simplicity is carried massively on the work of Demian Bichir, instantly and surely one of the best performances seen in 2011.
Well-acted, but quite over-hyped -- a melodramatic Mexican-American version of "Bicycle Thieves."
A Better Life is a half-step removed from the Hallmark Hall of Fame.
Erick Weber - NECN
A Better Life's sense of place and eye for detail are strong, but the too-smooth style and rushed dramatics are at odds with the hardscrabble existence on display.
Mark Pfeiffer - Reel Times: Reflections on Cinema
[A] gentle, honest, heartfelt film, but [it] does not have much to offer beyond an earnest respect for a segment of American society that is too often derided...
MaryAnn Johanson - Flick Filosopher
The silver lining is an excellent lead performance from Bichir.
Jay Antani - Cinema Writer
A well deserved Oscar nomination for Demian Bichir in a film with echoes of The Bicycle Thief.
Scott Nash - Three Movie Buffs
Each sequence plays out in mind-numbingly cliched fashion: father-son lectures, chin-up resilience-especially the final shot-and a stern message about the heartless anti-immigration movement are depicted in an infuriatingly shallow manner.
Gabe Leibowitz - Film and Felt
Director Chris Weitz has done a credible job of bringing Roger Simon's story and Eric Eason's screenplay to cinematic life.
S. James Wegg - JWR
it's far too predictable and mundane to carry my interest through the rest of the film
Kevin Carr - 7M Pictures
Although the structure of the film is conventional, the ending of the film is not. Unlike most films, it does have a real hero, Carlos.
Robert Roten - Laramie Movie Scope
A sympathetic tale about an illegal Mexican.
Dennis Schwartz - Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Dan Fainaru - Screen International
Essentially a variation on Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief, but it has a vitality and resonance all its own.
Ken Hanke - Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Modest as A Better Life may be in scope, it commits wholeheartedly to achieving the goal of socially conscious cinema: to make visible the previously unseen.
Mike McCahill - Scotsman
A movingly simple and simply moving father-son drama set in downtown LA, refreshingly free of pretentious narrative pyrotechnics. Have a hankie up your sleeve and hang your cynicism up at the door.
The sentimental saga of a father and son's stoical struggle against impossible odds.
Allan Hunter - Daily Express
It's a small, convincing, tightly constructed movie about an urgent, seemingly insoluble problem.
Philip French - Observer [UK]
A compassionate, sensitive look at the precarious lives of those off the grid.
David Edwards - Daily Mirror [UK]
It speaks well enough about the fate of immigrants everywhere, especially those who want to work hard but end up being exploited.
Derek Malcolm - This is London
Anthony Quinn - Independent
Emotionally engaging immigrant drama enlivened by strong performances from its two leads, but it's slightly undone by an overly predictable script that prevents any real surprises.
Matthew Turner - ViewLondon
Bichir carries it all with a measured performance of considerable emotion as the dad, clenched by so many years holding his breath, waiting for the knock at the door.
Fresh, human, insightful, moving.
Nigel Andrews - Financial Times
Eugene Novikov - Film Blather
Not as insightful as it could've been but something to chew on for those who like their social commentary a touch on the light and fluffy side.
Jason Goodyer - Little White Lies
A touching story of a father struggling to provide the best future for his son, and a son torn between the values he has been taught at home and those he has picked up on the streets.
- Radio Times
Pitched somewhere between Ken Loach's Bread and Roses and the Hallmark Channel, it's solid, issue-of-the-week stuff.
Elliott Noble - Sky Movies
If the father/son relationship follows a tried-and-true trajectory, its obvious debt to Bicycle Thieves is repaid with sincere sentiment and strong acting.
Tom Dawson - Total Film
A Better Life can be remembered as a humble but richly nuanced character study full of compassion.
Lisa Giles-Keddie - Real.com
The heartfelt performances and compelling story make A Better Life a worthy alternative to the loud and boisterous blockbusters invading multiplexes this summer.
Simon Reynolds - Digital Spy
The didacticism takes the shine off Weitz's accomplishment, even if the film builds up enough empathy to generate slow-burning emotional impact.
Trevor Johnston - Time Out
An interesting exploration of class struggle which recalls classics like Bicycle Thieves but doesn't quite live up to them.
Eve Barlow - Empire Magazine
Takes the classic "The Bicycle Thief" and reinvents it for today with quiet, powerful effect.
Cathy Jakicic - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
What sounds like a typical ethnic melodrama becomes something special in A Better Life, one of the finest films of 2011, so far. It reminds me of Winter's Bone, with its mesmerizing immersion into an overlooked culture and gut-tightening suspense.
Steve Persall - Tampa Bay Times
A Better Life is steeped in decency. But how does decency survive in an indecent world?
Tony Macklin - tonymacklin.net
I had the feeling I was supposed to marvel at the authenticity with which Weitz constructs his mawkish Bicycle Thieves update, but instead I kept noticing how utterly one-dimensional all the characters are.
Norman Wilner - NOW Toronto
...a rather simple premise that is, for the most part, employed to entertaining (if far-from-engrossing) effect by Weitz...
David Nusair - Reel Film Reviews
It's a gripping look at the idea that a society is judged by how it treats its weakest people.
Chris Hewitt (St. Paul) - St. Paul Pioneer Press
Notwithstanding its modest scope, "A Better Life" richly documents the life of an invisible man.
Joe Williams - St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Anyone looking for a bit of adult drama on the big screen in the midst of summer's comic-book heroes should consider A Better Life.
Liz Braun - Jam! Movies
Weitz, who directed the excellent 2002 Hugh Grant movie, "About a Boy," once more does a sensitive job with iffy material.
John Hartl - Seattle Times
The movie's point of view is matter of fact. As long as there is a border separating regions of unbalanced opportunity, and that border can be breached, it will be.
Gary Thompson - Philadelphia Daily News
Chris Weitz and Eric Eason use the immigration issue not as cheap agitprop but as the backdrop for a deep and truly moving human story about people caught in a web of screwy public policy and arbitrary enforcement.
Christopher Lloyd - Sarasota Herald-Tribune
White guilt drives this misguided retooling of The Bicycle Thief...
Brett Michel - Boston Phoenix
A Better Life is one of those modest movies that is so outwardly well-intentioned that one cannot help but doubt its intentions.
Jeremy Heilman - MovieMartyr.com
A movie with a story like this doesn't need to try so hard.
Matt Pais - RedEye
Unlike its multifaceted director, the film never stretches its boundaries.
Marjorie Baumgarten - Austin Chronicle
Touching but never mawkish and with a steely point to make.
Amber Wilkinson - Eye for Film
A Better Life is noble to the very end and that ends up being its undoing.
Ethan Alter - Television Without Pity
At its best when Carlos and Luis are following the trail of the car thief.
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky - Ebert Presents At The Movies
Painfully earnest...but Bichir's performance grounds it in a reality it might otherwise have lacked.
Frank Swietek - One Guy's Opinion
A well acted and nicely detailed if somewhat familiarly plotted immigrant drama, Chris Weitz's A Better Life shines a light on the razor's edge of poverty, with a solid, non-pandering sociocultural authenticity.
Brent Simon - Shared Darkness
Timely & compassionate father/son drama, it illuminates the contemporary immigrant experience, as Demien Bichir delivers a powerhouse performance.
Susan Granger - SSG Syndicate
Weitz's film-while certainly not always subtle-ultimately emerges triumphant and genuinely touching because of its graceful sincerity.
Landon Palmer - Film School Rejects
There are sequences here, like the ones involving men massing for work on street corners, or working the night shift washing dishes, that highlight a closed-off society too often neglected in the movies -- not to mention in real life.
Peter Rainer - Christian Science Monitor
Eye-opening social drama about immigration and family.
S. Jhoanna Robledo - Common Sense Media
Important, heartfelt drama about the plight of responsible, work-focused illegals victimized by an unforgiving American bureaucracy deserves attention but, like its subject, faces a daunting reality.
Doris Toumarkine - Film Journal International
Neither hopeful nor hopeless, the story is about embracing heritage while striving for more, all the while trying not to step on the neck of your brother.
Jeannette Catsoulis - NPR
A Better Life has more to offer than good intentions: it's sincere and credible, which is more than I can say about an awful lot of movies. Yet something about it kept me at arm's length: I felt the filmmakers' presence instead of losing myself in the...
Leonard Maltin - Leonard Maltin's Picks
I enjoyed watching the intimacy that arose out of crisis between these two characters, but the rest of the picture feels too familiar to be impressive.
Grae Drake - Movies.com
Mostly this is a film made up of earnest concern and good intentions - and that's never a substitute for real drama and strong convictions.
Stephen Whitty - Newark Star-Ledger
A real thriller with intense stakes, against the backdrop of a relevant social issue.
Fred Topel - Screen Junkies
A genuinely moving tale of a father and son banding together in a hostile world.
Marc Mohan - Oregonian
It's a familiar story retold in the form of another familiar story, but powerfully expressed emotions always feel fresh and vital in the moment, no matter how many times they've been expressed before.
Tasha Robinson - AV Club
Weitz's touch with the subject is only slightly lighter than that of the newly established norm, but the film benefits from its grounding in a nuanced take on a classic storyline.
Michelle Orange - Movieline
...earns praise for retelling a classic story of survival and the love for a father for his son...
Robin Clifford - Reeling Reviews
A touching and authentic immigrant tale that touches the heart and is One of the Best Films of 2011.
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat - Spirituality and Practice
Chris Weitz's light touch has made this incredibly timely immigrant story especially profound.
Joanna Langfield - The Movie Minute
The subject matter may not sound sexy, corny even, but Weitz has invested it with a real and honest heart.
Laura Clifford - Reeling Reviews
Kudos for stepping outside your comfort zone, sir, even if the result just translates as old-fashioned cultural slumming masked as tear-jerking humanism. Better luck next time.
David Fear - Time Out