Life Itself

 

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An ensemble of top-tier actors provides this slice of pop-philosophy with class.

 

Life Itself

Life will out: Olivia Cooke with Mandy Patinkin

  

In the words of Abigail (Olivia Wilde), the most unreliable narrator of all is life itself. Perhaps more significantly, Dan Fogelman's film explores how the most seemingly inconsequential and random moments dictate our future and our children’s future. Life Itself is not a film for critics. It is perhaps too self-aware and self-consciously heart-warming for that. But it is smart enough to know its audience.

 

Once the truly unreliable narration of Samuel L. Jackson has been removed, the chapters start to reveal themselves. If anything, the film recalls the generation-spanning sentiment of Claude Lelouch’s Toute une vie (1974), which suggested that we needed grandparents to get to where we are today. That is, the past will forever be present and we are not only what our parents make us, but their parents, too. With this fortune cookie philosophy aside, the drama has moments of genuine perception and feels fresh, inventive, vivid, constantly surprising and heart-breaking – as its demographic would demand.

 

Indeed, there is an air of Americanised Richard Curtis about the film. Even the title has a whiff of Love Actually, come to think of it. And in keeping with the latter’s use of pop music as an emotional cornerstone in people’s lives, here we have Bob Dylan’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’ (“I could hold you for a million years/To make you feel my love”). To get a sense of the film’s writer-director Dan Fogelman, let’s just say that he created and produced the TV series This Is Us. He also wrote the ensemble sitcom Crazy. Stupid. Love (2011) and produced Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015). Olivia Cooke, who starred in the latter, is one of the significant pieces in this ambitious new jigsaw who emerges on screen in one of the film’s most astonishing moments. Actually, there are several OMG! face-slappers and the acting is accomplished enough to lead us willingly from one throat-catching moment to the next, with a little help from Bob Dylan.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, Jean Smart, Olivia Cooke, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Laia Costa, Alex Monner, Isabel Durant, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Samuel L. Jackson, Lorenza Izzo, Caitlin Carmichael, Jordana Rose, Kya Kruse, Alisa Sushkova.

 

Dir Dan Fogelman, Pro Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey, Screenplay Dan Fogelman, Ph Brett Pawlak, Pro Des Gerald Sullivan, Ed Julie Monroe, Music Federico Jusid, Costumes Melissa Toth.

 

FilmNation Entertainment/Nostromo Pictures/Temple Hill Entertainment-Altitude Film Distribution.

117 mins. USA/Spain. 2018. Rel: 4 January 2019. Cert. 15.