Immigrating to a new country can be an incredibly difficult process: Learning the language, adapting to the culture, finding work, and of course, getting the fund together in the first place to uproot your entire life. But for undocumented immigrants, these worries grow exponentially, as they worry about finding jobs and avoiding detection and deportation. When life is nearly impossible in your home, scrambling to make a life somewhere new is an adventure in itself, and usually a very precarious one.
Bread and Roses is the story of Maya (Pilar Padilla), an undocumented immigrant who was smuggled into the country under less than respectable circumstances, thanks to her sister Rosa’s financial assistance and Mexican coyotes. Things seem great at first: Maya is able to live with Rosa (Elpidia Carrillo), and her family. Maya is able to meet and bond with her niece and brother-in-law, and Rosa’s arranged for her manager, Perez (George Lopez) to give Maya a job working as a janitor. But Maya very quickly realizes how poor the working conditions and how low the wages are, and when she meets Sam Shapiro (Adrian Brody), he inspires her to want more, which prompts her to galvanize the other employees to start a workers’ union. The only problem is Rosa.
Rosa is the sole breadwinner for her family and has a teenage daughter and very ill husband to think of. She doesn’t want to put her job on the line to demand better work conditions and jeopardize her livelihood. As the sisters clash, the audience is forced to ask ourselves why, for so many people, demanding their rights is a luxury, why those who work hard to buy bread shouldn’t also get to have roses. Padilla and Carrillo are magnetic and Maya and Rosa, and this is one of those rare film that doesn’t just show you both sides of a dilemma, but keeps you straddling the fence on the issue as well. Maya’s passion for a better future is not more important than Rosa’s desire for a better today.
Bread and Roses is a simple film about a very complex issue, and (sadly) the topics discussed therein are more relevant now than ever. I give this one 5 stars.