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A Better Life | 2011 | PG-13 | - 3.5.5

An illegal immigrant from Mexico (Demian Bichir) fights to raise his teenage son by himself in East LA. While trying to keep his son out of gangs and give him the life he never had, he must struggle to provide for his family without being caught by American immigration authorities. Also with Jose Julian and Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo. Directed by Chris Weitz. [1:38]

SEX/NUDITY 3 - A teen boy and a teen girl are seen kissing passionately as they walk through a crowd of other teenagers. A teen boy and a teen girl kiss. A teenage boy and a teenage girl hold hands.
 A teenage girl makes a crude remark to a teenage boy after he tries to come on to her. A teenage girl tells a teenage boy that, "He wishes he could have this," in reference to herself.
 Men and women are shown in the background of a dance club and some of them are seen dancing suggestively.
 Men in a shower room are implied to be nude and their bare backs and chests are visible. A man is seen shirtless with his bare chest visible as he walks around in surf pants. A young man is seen shirtless with his torso and chest covered in tattoos. A portion of man's chest and back are visible while he stands in a shower. A portion of a man's stomach is visible when he lifts his shirt. We see the bare chest and back of a teenage boy after a police officer instructs him to take off his shirt to be photographed for gang tattoos and a woman looks at the boy's bare chest. Several teenage boys are seen shirtless while playing a soccer game and their bare backs and chests are visible. The bare chest and backs of men are seen in photographs pinned to a police station wall. A correction officer instructs several men that they will have to take off all of their clothing. Several men stare at teenage girls wearing extremely short and tight shorts. A man stares at a woman wearing short shorts. A woman's bare torso is visible when she wears a mid-drift revealing dress. Several women seen inside and outside a nightclub wear tight, short dresses.


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VIOLENCE/GORE 5 - A teenage boy tackles a man, pins him against the ground and punches him repeatedly; the boy is pulled off the man by his father, the boy kicks the man on the ground multiple times, his father pushes the boy away and grabs his hand to make him stop and we see the man on the ground prop himself up (no blood is visible but he looks injured).
 A teenage boy punches another teen boy in the mouth (no blood is visible), he runs and is chased by three teenagers, they corner him against a fence, he attempts to climb it, he is yanked off the fence and a police officer slams the boy against the fence as the others run away.
 A dog barks at a man and a teenage boy inside a truck, the dog climbs on top of the hood of the truck and the man drives the truck away rapidly (we see the dog slide off the hood); a man with a gun drawn and pointing at the driver shouts at him, the man driving the truck continues driving, and the man holding the gun leaps out of the way as the man drives through a gate.
 A man tells his teenage son to watch for a guard as the man jumps over a razor wire tipped fence (using his jacket to protect him): we see the man leap over the wire, we see the teenage boy climb the fence, his pant leg gets caught on the wire, he panics, and the man cuts him down and the boy is unharmed.
 We see two men arguing, and one takes a swing at the other and we see them tussle briefly. A man shouts at another man and chases him on foot, as the man drives away in the other man's truck; the man running after the truck stumbles and falls down a small hill and gets up, unharmed. A teenage boy shouts at his father as his father is pulled over by a police officer; the boy encourages his father to continue driving and tries to grab the keys of the truck and his father shouts at him.
 At a rodeo we see a man falling off the back of a bull, and he gets up moments later, presumably unharmed. A man falls off a horse as it runs rapidly; he is presumably unharmed. We see a man climbing a very tall tree using foot spikes and a belt and a woman remarks that the man needs to be safe. A car honks and swerves to avoid hitting a man standing in the middle of the street.
 A teenage boy walks past a crime scene, and we see two police officers dragging a tarp over a presumably dead body and a body bag on a gurney.
 We see a teen boy's face with a black eye, a cut and swollen lip and bruised jaw; the wounds came from being "beaten in" to join a gang. We see several men with their hands cuffed to a chain around their waists as armed guards escort them. A correctional officer with a gun on his hip escorts a man with a chain around his waist and hands cuffed to the chain; the chained up man apologizes to his son for being handcuffed.
 A man shouts at his teenage son. A teenage boy shouts at his father for pulling him away from a fight. A man and a teenage boy walk past graffiti that says, "Too many Mexicans, not enough bullets." A man tells another man that the deceased body of his uncle was found after he tried to sneak into the U.S. by walking through the desert. A correctional officer warns several men that they cannot start fights while in prison, warning the men that they are not permitted to be part of a gang and must alert prison staff if they are HIV positive or have communicable diseases. A woman warns a teenage boy that he is not allowed to be involved in gangs. A man warns a woman that he could possibly get into a car accident or arrested. A teenage girl threatens a teenage boy, saying she will have her gang-member relatives kill him. On two occasions we hear two teenage boys discussing how they must be "beaten in" to be part of a gang; on one occasion a teenage boy explains that he had heard that they should protect their faces and allow the rest of their bodies to be severely beaten. A teenage boy tells a young man that he is ready to be "beaten in" to join a gang. A young man warns two teenage boys that they could die on the streets when joining a gang. A young man tells a teenage boy that he could be shot if he joined the young man's gang. Two teen boys discuss how they had gotten into a fight with another teenage boy and they brag to one another about how violent the fight could have become. A police officer asks a teenage boy if he had instigated a fight with another teenage boy as part of a gang activity, and the teenage boy denies being in a gang. A man tells his teenage son that he had been scared when the teenage boy did not come home at night and the teenage boy tells the man not to worry. A man tells his teenage son that his truck had been stolen. A man tells his teenage son that he had anger issues caused by the teen leaving, but that he had worked through them. A teen boy jokingly tells his father that he is going to "jack an old lady in the streets" for money.
 A man throws a tray of glasses at another man, it hits his face and chest and shatters on the ground. A young man grabs a card from a man's hand, and the man stands up and grabs the young man's hand and holds it until the young man drops the card.
 We hear sounds of urinating and see a teenage boy facing a toilet (no urine or nudity is visible).
 A teenage boy watches a television show where a dog is sent to chase a person and we hear gunshots coming from the television.


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LANGUAGE 5 - At least 1 F-word, 5 scatological terms, 3 anatomical terms, 18 mild obscenities, 1 derogatory name for Hispanics, name-calling (cheapest man on the face of the earth, Professor, fatty, crazy, loco, chump, low-lifes, Aztec All-Star, pendejo [in Spanish and not translated], crazy cold, old, gangster), 2 religious exclamations. There are multiple occasions in the film where Spanish obscenities are heard in the background and are not translated.


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SUBSTANCE USE - A teenage boy is seen holding a marijuana cigarette, and it is implied that two teenage boys engage in a drug deal (we see no drugs being exchanged and none are named). We see men drinking beer and other men and women with alcoholic drinks and beers in a nightclub, a teenage boy asks his father if he is drunk when the man stumbles and slurs after coming home late, a man and a teenage boy walk past a woman selling shots of liquor and the man drags the boy away, and we see large ads for liquor and beer.


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DISCUSSION TOPICS - Illegal immigration, sacrifices, illegal aliens, deportation, NGOs for legal council, living in fear, theft, dishonesty, revenge, regret, trying to make a better life, disappointment, gang members and gang life, MS-13 gang members, gang violence, family.

MESSAGE - Raising a child alone can be a struggle. There is a human face to illegal immigration.

CAVEATS

Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.

We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.

Our ratings and reviews are based on the theatrically-released versions of films; on video there are often Unrated, Special, Director's Cut or Extended versions, (usually accurately labelled but sometimes mislabeled) released that contain additional content, which we did not review.


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