Although the name may be a little too obvious, “Life Itself” is a film that shares what it means to be alive. It’s also a film that has recently been torn apart by critics and viewers alike.
While there are many aspects that are clunky and not fully developed in the film, I feel there are still many redeeming qualities worth highlighting.
The film’s writer and director, Dan Fogelman, achieves an honest and heartbreaking story with a little help from some classic Hollywood clichés.
Even though the film does grow a little trite as it moves into the final act, there is still a lot to like about “Life Itself.”
This is because it exudes so much charm even in the face of some of its most poignant topics.
As one may expect, a film that is so much about life also inherently contains the subject of death; “Life Itself” definitely does not shy away from this subject whatsoever.
Fogelman, who is the writer and tear-jerker mastermind behind NBC’s award-winning television series “This Is Us,” works with similar material in “Life Itself.”
“Life Itself” essentially tells three separate stories: the first being the tragic relationship of Will (Oscar Isaac) and Abby (Olivia Wilde); the second, the story of Will and Abby’s troubled daughter, Dylan (Olivia Cooke); and the third is that of Rodrigo (Àlex Monner) and his parents, Javier (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) and Isabel (Laia Costa).
When I say that the film is telling these stories, I mean that in the most literal way. One of the most fascinating aspects of the film is its own awareness of its story. Everything from the use of several narrators to the chapter titles throughout the film make this awareness that much clearer.
In this way, one of the major themes of the movie is storytelling and how people use storytelling to make sense of their own lives.
This use of story helps provide a meta-narrative not only on how we share stories but on how we consume them as well.
This is probably the most complex and compelling aspect about “Life Itself,” which ultimately makes it worth watching, but there are other reasons to see this film.
The first of which are the performances. It is difficult to identify just one standout performance in a handful of terrific performances throughout the movie.
When it comes to the acting in this film, there are so many good things to talk about. The most moving performance in the film belongs to Laia Costa. Costa captures your eyes and demonstrates a large range in her limited screen time. It also helps that she gets to deliver the culminating speech of the film.
This raises the question of the film’s writing. While there are various scenes, especially early on, that display distinct, clever and original writing, the film ultimately falls into the trap of over-explaining its point by the end. It almost boarders on appearing pretentious.
In this way, the filmmakers do not seem to trust the dialogue and performances they established early on in the film to deliver emotional payoffs at the end. Because of this, the film’s end offers too much of a cookie-cutter ending.
While some of this over-the-top writing distracts from the film’s message, it does not detract from the film’s successful commentary on storytelling.
“Life Itself” can be disarming at times, but it ultimately leaves the viewer satisfied