Saturday 11 May 2024

Movie Review: Life Itself (2018)

Genre: Romantic Drama  
Director: Dan Fogelman  
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Annette Bening, Olivia Wilde, Antonio Banderas, Mandy Patinkin, Olivia Cooke, Samuel L. Jackson  
Running Time: 117 minutes  

Synopsis: The story is told in multiple ultimately inter-connected chapters across many time periods, all revolving around themes of love, death, and life's inherent unpredictability. 
  • In New York, Will (Oscar Isaac) is grieving the loss of his wife Abby (Olivia Wilde), and reveals their love story in sessions with his therapist (Annette Bening).
  • Dylan (Olivia Cooke) suffered multiple losses during her childhood and was raised by her grandfather (Mandy Patinkin). Now in her early twenties, she is a rebellious teenager angry at the world.
  • In Spain, Javier (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) labours in the olive groves of land owner Saccione (Antonio Banderas). Javier marries Isabel (Laia Costa) and they have a son, but a family trip to New York undermines their happiness.
  • Rodrigo (Àlex Monner) is a foreign student in New York, where he has a casual relationship with Shari (Isabel Durant) before meeting the love of his life.
What Works Well: Writer and director Dan Fogelman crafts an intricate multi-generational drama about the quirks of fate and the small moments that make a big difference across decades. A bus accident connects the stories in a split-second of joint inattention, but sorrow and loss are the seeds of birth and renewal as the human spirit carves pathways around tragedy. The fragmented structure creates an engaging puzzle-like milieu, and the impressive ensemble cast members find character depth despite sharing the screen time.

What Does Not Work As Well: The foul-mouthed prologue involving Samuel L. Jackson (as himself) is wholly unnecessary. Once the narrative settles, the intended themes lack subtlety, and the sentimentality reaches extreme levels.

Conclusion: Life's standard trajectory is a series of curves.

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