- Composed by Alexandre Desplat
- Nacional Records / 2011 / 42:51
Director Chris Weitz couldn’t be accused of being typecast, going from his career-starting uncredited directing of American Pie through the Hugh Grant rom-com About a Boy and fantasy failure The Golden Compass before arriving at his most lucrative project so far, New Moon. He follows that up with something completely different again, A Better Life, about an illegal immigrant in LA trying to provide a decent life for his son against a backdrop of gang violence. As with Weitz’s previous two films, the music comes courtesy of the prolific Alexandre Desplat. I know it’s getting boring me saying it, but it’s yet another high-quality effort from the Frenchman, who has very quickly established himself as one of the finest film composers around, not perhaps hitting home runs every time but coming as close as anyone at the moment.
A Better Life is one of the composer’s most overtly emotional scores. I’ve never found his music lacking in that department, but it’s difficult not to notice that it is a criticism sometimes levelled against him. Anyway, few would consider such a criticism this time – there are at least a couple of themes here which are turned into quite heart-wrenching pieces of music at various moments by the composer. The London Symphony Orchestra is credited but it sounds like it’s probably a cut-down version of it; there are also prominent solo parts for guitar, mandolin and electronics. It will be no surprise to learn the infamous electronic pulse makes an appearance, underpinning the two large-scale action tracks “Santiago Steals the Truck” and “Traffic”, both of which are darkly exhilarating. The heartstrings are tugged at various times, but particularly moving are “Deportation” and the finale, “Coming Home”, which I’m sure will be a track appearing on many people’s best-of-the-year lists. Even by Desplat’s recent standards this is an unusually strong and satisfying album and perhaps the finest of his 2011 scores to date; highly recommended. ****
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