I just saw Life Itself in theaters, and I am quite disappointed. It follows two families on separate continents as they navigate through life, finding love and heartbreak along the way. Based on the description and the trailer, it seems like an upbeat, hopeful romance with some drama and tear-jerking moments, but it’s actually the opposite.
Life Itself has many flaws, but I will focus on the main ones. Firstly, most of the characters in this movie are one-dimensional. You don’t learn much about them aside from a few facts about their pasts and some basic traits, which makes them very unrealistic and hard to care about. Secondly, the movie is supposed to emulate life, but the events and connections between characters are completely far-fetched. Lastly, it has too much story for a two-hour movie. Few characters have the time to develop properly, and we rarely see the implications of the traumatic events because there are too many characters and time jumps to focus on one period or person for too long.
I found the first family and their story extremely poorly written. None of them are realistic or compelling, and I found it difficult to care about them. For example, the primary trait of Will (played by Oscar Isaac) is an intense, almost creepy love for his wife, who also has no personality. In addition to the bland characters, the first family’s story contains several major twists, but they are there more for shock value than to add to the story. They intend to make the viewers feel sad, but we don’t learn enough about the characters to even care about what happens to them, so these twists do not elicit their anticipated emotion.
The second family is much more interesting, despite their story being a bit slow-paced. The characters, especially the two men, seem more real, and therefore I felt much more emotionally attached to them and their story. Their story comprises the best part of the movie, but it still has flaws, as parts of it are overly dramatic and unrealistic, and only two of the four characters are actually well developed.
The purpose of having multiple storylines and a large cast of characters in this film is to build up to specific happy or traumatic moments that are meant to be cathartic, but the feeling just wasn’t there for me, so few of these events resonated with me at all. There was only one moment that made me emotional, and I think it is a solitary example of good writing in this film. It is a twist involving the two men in the second family’s story that, once explained, makes perfect sense for the characters and story, so it has much more emotional weight. That moment was the best part of the entire movie for me.
The end of Life Itself was possibly the worst part. It thinks it’s building up to a huge moment that will make all the trauma better and leave you feeling happy, but the message it sends isn’t consistent with the plot of the film, and I personally find it problematic. The message is that everything in life (including traumatic events) happens for a reason and will eventually lead you or someone else to happiness, so trauma can actually be a good thing. I get what the writer is trying to say, but we barely see the result of this message, and it disregards the people who get hurt along the way, as they were just the means to an end. This ending is meant to be a cathartic moment where everything adds up and leads you to this epiphany about life, but I was left thinking, that’s it?
I expected a lot more from this film, especially because of the writer/director’s acclaim with This Is Us, but I was quite disappointed. I would rate it around 5.5/10, and I would not recommend that anyone watch it.
Photo from https://www.lifeitself.movie/