A Better Life

Before Chris Weitz was the director of “The Golden Compass” and “New Moon,” he was the grandson of Mexican silent movie star Lupita Tovar. Does that entitle Weitz to a pet project updating the Italian neorealist classic “Bicycle Thieves” as noble-immigrant melodrama in today’s East L.A.? Well, sure. This rather pat but nicely acted and nicely location scouted film, written by Eric Eason from a story by Roger L. Simon, concerns an undocumented single-dad day laborer (Demián Bichir) struggling to keep his teenage son (José Julián) in school and out of a gang. At its best when father and son forgo trite-tending Spanglish dialogue in favor of more genuine nonverbal communication, Weitz’s movie does get across its sincerity and sympathy for their fragile standing within the community and each other’s lives.