- Kirk Honeycutt, film critic for the Hollywood Reporter and host of the UCLA film course where we previewed this movie immediately compared it to Vittorio De Sicas’s 1948 classic film The Bicycle Thief . In it a man and his son search for a stolen bicycle vital for his job. Fast forward to the present time as Carlos, an undocumented immigrant,
(played by Mexican super star Demian Bichir) and his teenage son (played by Jose Lulian, an American making his acting debut ) are on a similar quest. They are searching for Carlos’ stolen truck which he bought with borrowed funds to give him his one chance to make a decent living as a gardener and pay off his debts. Where the original Italian movie painted a picture of the poverty in post war Italy, this film provides an insight into life in East Los Angeles with its poverty, gangs, immigrants desperate for work and living with constant fear of being deported. It captures the poignancy and the dilemmas of hard working immigrant families in cities like Los Angeles who are trying to survive and provide a better life for their children while one step away from being arrested and sent home. The screenplay by Eric Eason is short on words but crystal clear in the emotional impact which it provides not only with the stark reality of the situation that the father and son are faced with but in the emotional struggle that each of them must feel. Bichir’s performance could not be better as his face tells his story as does his words in both English and Spanish (with appropriate subtitles). Veteran director Chris Weitz teamed with award winning Spanish cinema photographer Javier Aguirresarobe to put together a realistic vision of the characters and environment which was filmed in 69 different locations in Los Angeles.
Despite the effectiveness of the film, there are no clear villains and no new calls for action. While there may be a morsel of hope there is also the depressing possibility of a never ending line of people with crushed dreams. The film, itself, is an amazingly powerful and authentic glimpse into the human story that is part of the “intractable immigration issue.” The emotional pull precludes over intellectualizing. (2011)