(2011; English and Spanish) Working as a gardener in East LA, Carlos Galindo (Demian Bichir) is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico and single father of a 14-year-old son. He tries to instill values in Luis (José Julian): "School's important…. Want to end up like me?" Letting Luis have the only bedroom, Carlos sleeps on the livingroom couch.
Born in the US after his parents crossed the border and raised by his father after his mother ran off, Luis ("Why did you have me?") shows no respect for Carlos: "Go mow some lawns." Carlos tells Luis: "I worry about you all the time."
For transportation to job sites at the homes of well-off Anglos, Carlos has to rely on his friend Blasco Martinez, who owns a pickup truck. When Blasco offers to sell the vehicle to Carlos, pointing out that without a truck he'll be back on the corner trying to hire himself out for work, Carlos requests a loan of $12,000 from his married sister Anita (Dolores Heredia), which she gives him - money she's saved and hidden from her husband.
At school Luis gets suspended after getting into a fight with a bully; his girlfriend Ruthie's uncle 'Celo is a gang member (someone kids respect for his violent reputation) - a temptation to join for the teenager. Carlos promises Luis that things are going to change - "I'm going to make something out of this business" - so that they can move into a better neighborhood with a good school and have more time to be together.
Directed by Chris Weitz from Eric Eason's screenplay (story by Roger L. Simon), the plight of illegal aliens like Carlos (keeping their heads down, quietly going about the business of trying to improve their lot in life) is made stark. If caught and sent to an ICE detention center for deportation, an individual can contest removal, but only 3% are successful.
Lacking a driver's license and registration, Carlos must be careful not to give the cops any cause to pull him over. A thief steals the truck. Luis, recognizing that it's "our problem," joins his father in an effort to recover the truck. Along the way, Carlos attempts to introduce Luis to Mexican culture by attending a Charreada (rodeo) as father and son uneasily bond.
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