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Laramie Movie Scope:
A Better Life

The illegal life on the fringes of L.A.

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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October 29, 2011 -- This movie puts the political hot-button issue of illegal immigration into a very personal perspective as a father, Carlos Galindo (Demián Bichir) takes some big risks to try to provide a better life for his young son, Luis (José Julián). This earnest, straightforward story follows a gardener as he tries to keep Luis in school, and away from gangs.

The odds are stacked against Carlos, who has worked for his friend Blasco Martinez's (Joaquín Cosio) small landscaping business for years. Blasco wants to sell his truck and all his landscaping equipment and retire to a farm in Mexico. Blasco wants Carlos to buy the truck. Carlos is afraid his illegal status will be discovered if he is caught driving the truck, but he needs the money he will make by taking over the business in order to better provide for Luis. Besides, if Blasco sells his truck to somebody else, Carlos could be out of a job.

Luis misses school too often and he hangs out with kids connected to gangs. Attempts are made to recruit Luis into gangs. He is teetering on the edge. Carlos' sister Anita (Dolores Heredia) is willing to help Carlos, but her husband is a difficult man to deal with. When Carlos finally buys the truck and seems to be on the way to a better life, you just know something bad is going to happen, and it does. A crisis actually brings Carlos and Luis closer together and Luis sees a daring courage in his father that he never knew was there. Carlos risks everything to provide a better life for his son, and his son is finally able to see that.

Although the structure of the film is conventional, the ending of the film is not. Much of the dialog in the film is spanish, but it is mostly an English language film from a director, Chris Weitz, who is best known for a very British comedy, “About a Boy.” The acting in the film is quite good, with a particularly effective emotional scene between Carlos and Luis. In some ways this is like a European film in that it is about ordinary people and social problems. American films are usually about extraordinary people. Unlike most films, it does have a real hero, Carlos. There are no big revelations about society in this film. It raises no new issues and there are no new perspectives. It is not a great film, but it is a good one. It rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2011 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)