Life Itself comes from director and writer Dan Fogelman who is famous for his many films and television shows, including the hit NBC show, This Is Us. Life Itself is a film with an ensemble cast that tells a story that spans continents and two generations. The film demonstrates how we are all connected by the good or the bad that life hands to us. It is through those connections that we can find meaning.
Will (Oscar Isaac) and Abby (Olivia Wilde) are madly in love, or at least from Will’s perspective they are. When something tragic happens, Will is left to pick up the pieces, along with his newborn daughter, Dylan (Olivia Cooke) and father, Irwin (Mandy Patinkin). Not knowing what life has in mind, these characters are connected to characters in Spain, who, although miles and miles apart are connected to them. Javier (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) is a simple olive picker when noticed by his employer Mr. Saccione (Antonio Banderas), is given a raise and a new position. With this money, he can finally make a life for his soon-to-be wife, Isabel (Laia Costa) and not yet born son, Rigo (Àlex Monner). As life unfolds as it does, in unexpected ways, their lives change and their futures with it.
What will surprise the audience most is how dark the film gets reasonably quickly. It certainly earns its R-rating within the first half hour of the film. It will shock and stun audiences, but when we start to pick up the pieces, we see the journey that Dan Fogelman has in store for us. The writing style is similar to what we would see in This Is Us with interwoven storylines, but Life Itself is much more. It addresses topics on such a broader scale. It tackles the very subject the title of the film suggests: life.
Oscar Isaac gives a stunning performance as Will. It is raw emotion and grips the audience and doesn’t let go. Everything he does on screen in entrancing, and we are holding onto his every word and action. Another stellar performance comes from Laia Costa as Isabel. The scene where she is in bed and talking to Rigo about what he must do elicits such an emotional response from the audience.
Dan Fogelman’s writing continues to enchant and entice audiences the world over. His astounding ability to create worlds of hope and love around those of tragedy and loss is nothing short of magical. He can make audiences laugh and cry within minutes of one another. He finds the profound in the simple and beautiful in the darkness.
Despite my love for the film and the message it sends, I do have a few issues. I think that the choice of the narrator at the beginning of the film throws off the audience a bit. I know it wasn’t what I expected and it took me a bit to get into the story after that. Additionally, the film does a shift from English to Spanish with subtitles, and it is a bit jarring at first. Once you see what is happening, it makes sense and the characters feel much more authentic in their portrayal.
While the film is weighty, it offers a message of hope that I feel translates well to anyone. Despite the terrible things that happen in life, if we dare to get up and go just a little bit further, we can find love and happiness. While there are issues with the film, the message of hope endures. Life Itself will devastate and delight audiences the world over bringing universal messages of hope amongst tragedy and love amongst despair.