Oscar Isaac Olivia Wilde Annette Benning Samuel L. Jackson
Mandy Patinkin Jean Smart Antonio Banderas
Laia Costa Sergio Peris-Mencheta Adrian Monner Alex Monner Olivia Cooke
“Life itself is an unreliable narrator”, states this film in so many ways so many times, it becomes the major theme, with the corollary, “Life will always surprise you”. So life is an unreliable narrator because we never know what is going to happen next. What may seem like tragedy and death can be deceptive, particularly if one has the fortitude to pick oneself up and continue on. So life itself can sometimes trick us.
That these philosophical “underpinnings” to the narrative are bounteously entertaining and thought provoking becomes the surprise of this well conceived, well told film. When initial reviews I read were negative in light of the stunning cast, I wondered how so many fine actors signed on to do it. Now that I’ve seen Life Itself, I can well understand; when they read the script, they “got it.” What I understand less is how a thoughtful, philosophically minded viewer could miss the gold within it—and maybe those who are turned off by it simply miss—or do not care for—the point.
The story shows how life’s “accidents” may be fateful, and actually may bind people together in surprising ways. I especially liked how it reflects the good intentions of people in general and how they (most of us) are unaware of the long-term consequences. In Dan Fogelman’s fine script and direction, Life Itself views the long-term picture within a family, even though each generation’s story is sufficient for a whole movie—which is what we are most accustomed to in contemporary times.
But here, we first have Will (Isaac) and Abby (Wilde) in a romantic relationship. He vows that, “I will love you however you’re best equipped to handle it.” How generous is that? They have a girl-child named Dylan (because Abby is obsessed with Bob Dylan's Time out of Mind album). Life happens, and we switch to another time and place to Isabel (Costa) and Javier (Peris-Mencheta), who have a son, Rodrigo (Adrian and Alex Monner), and a special uncle, Mr. Saccione (Banderas). How life goes full circle will keep you suspended and entertained if you are willing to be puzzled, and then pick yourself up and continue to the end of the film.
The strong cast paired with a substantive story that goes beyond the superficial and looks at generations of families across time is the kind of production that keeps me going to movies. This is a film I will make sure to see again at least once to have the advantage of hindsight, and a chance to reflect further on its truths. Every single actor fits perfectly in his/her role in an infectious and appealing manner. Music by Federico Jusid is integral, and itself very entertaining.
See this for the delightfully pictured romantic relationships, but for a full experience, keep in mind its philosophical undercurrents.