This year’s Oscars weren’t even two weeks ago and already we could have an awards contender on our hands for next year. This week I had a chance to see A Better Life, a drama directed by Chris Weitz (New Moon) about a single-dad gardener from Mexico living illegally in Los Angeles and trying to keep his teenage son away from the pervasive gang culture. Summit Entertainment is releasing the film at the end of June, in the same slot it gave to The Hurt Locker two years ago.
They have reason to be high on the film. A Better Life is an unfussy, yet quite powerful drama with a terrific central performance by Demián Bichir, who played Fidel Castro in 2008’s Che and also dated Mary-Louise Parker on Weeds. The film will remind many viewers and critics of The Visitor, which scored Richard Jenkins a Best Actor nod two years ago — both movies feature major characters facing possible deportation — but should also have no trouble standing on its own. The behind-the-scenes players are interesting as well: Weitz is a past Oscar nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay for About a Boy, and the film is the first producing effort for actress Jami Gertz (Still Standing) and former agent Stacey Lubliner, who have their own production company together, Lime Orchard Productions. (The film’s other two producers are Christian McLaughlin and Paul Junger Witt.) At the very least, A Better Life seems like a good bet for some Spirit Award nominations next year (most likely for Bichir). With the right reviews and commercial reception, it could go even further.