Tag Archives: Immigrants

Movie Review: Brooklyn (2015)

Rating: B/  This is the kind of movie you sort of have to be in the mood for; a slow-paced, low-key period piece with a vivid sense of time and place. The love story at the center of the film is endearing if nothing spectacular, but the excellent acting and instantly empathizeable heroine make it an enjoyable experience. It’s like a slice of life from days long since past. Continue reading Movie Review: Brooklyn (2015)

A Better Life (2011)


Although “A Better Life” seems a little didactic at times, it also offers a certain warmth while remaining firmly grounded in sometimes harsh reality. Latino landscaper and illegal immigrant Carlos (Damien Bichir, who played alongside Diane Kruger in one of my favorite crime shows, “The Bridge”) only wants a ‘better life’ for his teenaged son Luis (José Julián,) but the kid gives his long-suffering dad nothing but lip and gets cozy with his gangster friends.

Carlos borrows some money from his much more affluent sister (Dolores Heredita) against his own hardscrabble ethics and buys a truck to help with his job. But an initially trustworthy-seeming employee steals the truck and sends Carlos and Luis on an odyssey to find the perpetrator and win back Carlos’ precious commodity.

It’s hard not to love Carlos, but I’ll be damned if his yo-yo-yo ungrateful little gangsta wannabe son didn’t make me want to bitch-slap him. “Go mow some lawns,” the son drawls lazily when his dad tries to straighten him out. It’s not hard to figure out that the father and son will bond and the kid will reassess some values, and by the end you hold up some hope for Luis’ future even if you still don’t exactly, well, like him.

“A Better Life” suggests some holes in the illegal immigration system in a not-always-so-subtle but still satisfactory way. If there’s one thing I can commend this film for, it’s for not handling the subject matter with a fairy tale varnish. It is, indeed, hard to be a minority in the United States when your American-born citizens are expecting you to prove your unworthiness to the Land of the Free any moment.

It is even harder to be an otherwise law-abiding illegal who is afraid of being pulled over for  a minor traffic infraction and the police finding you out and tossing you back where you came from, at the expense of your family unit. The ending of “A Better Life” is a little abrupt but still manages to offer some hope for the characters while at the same time possessing a kind of tough-love realness.

Because while painting the conclusion of a social drama rose-colored is irresponsible, offering no leeway in the matter of hope can also at times rob a story of its reality. People find ways to deal, sometimes constructive, sometimes irresponsible, but burdening the film with heart-crushing gloominess doesn’t always make it more effective. And sometimes, as with Alan Clarke’s skinhead drama “Made in Britain,” cynical nihilism is the way to go.

But I hold out hope for Carlos that even if he doesn’t find the ‘better life’ he’s looking for, he will be able to roll with the punches life offers up. Everyone wants more than they have, but only a few people, like Carlos, have the courage to go for their dream. I hope that by watching this movie people will find themselves both entertained and more sympathetic to the immigrant’s plight in America.


Devoured (2013)


The first time I saw “Devoured” I loved it and was fully prepared to write a rave review, but the second time I was a little less enamored. I still think the film invokes a genuine feeling of dread and has a terrific lead performance by leading lady Marta Milans, but it also occasionally utilizes worn horror tropes and just takes a little too long to get itself going.

The unnamed heroine is a Latina immigrant who seems to be going insane… but is she? The woman dreams of saving up enough money to pay for surgery for her extremely ill son, who still lives in Mexico with his grandmother. She also aspires to bring the boy and her mom to the states to live with her. She struggles to make ends meet and accomplish her goal working in a little restaurant in the city.

But something is amiss. Doors slam, figures prowl, her antagonistic boss nettles, and most of the men take a purely physical or even predatory interest in our heroine. Spooky things seem to happen when she goes into the basement of the restaurant. And what exactly is behind the unopened door in the back of the cellar?

We can’t help but root for our heroine, despite her less-than-charitable attitude toward the upper-middle class customers who frequent the restaurant. She obviously would do anything for her son. But is she the woman she seems to be? And are her visions figments of an overactive psyche, or something more sinister?

“Devoured” maintains a palpable sense of unease, boosted by a powerful performance by Marta Milans. You can genuinely feel Milan’s anxiety and fear as she walks the unfamiliar streets of the unforgiving urban city in which she dwells. Hopefully MIlans will draw attention to herself in the moviemaking world with this film and will get some more roles soon. She’s attractive, which doesn’t hurt.

There are a few too many claustrophobic close-ups of foods being prepared and chopped in this flick.  It works for a certain length of time (and is perhaps, like the title, and commentary on American decadence,) but after a while seem like filler. Bruno Gunn lends a certain creditability as a guy who befriends the lead and the only man in the movie whose not a total scumbucket.

“Devoured” is an effective low budget horror who mysteries and secrets lead to a surprisingly innovative twist ending. It comes down to this… if you can find it, see it, and pay no heed to the one-star reviews circulating around the internet. It is slow, maybe to a fault at moments, but its got verve and heart and the director obviously knows what he’s doing. If his first narrative feature holds this much promise, God knows what kind of cool shit he’ll come up with for his next movie. I’m personally excited for him. Maybe, after seeing this clever little chiller, you will be too.