“Life Itself” Review: A story of family, love and loss, as life itself is

Set up an appointment with your therapist after seeing this film.


Matthew Santiago, Freelance Writer

Dan Fogelman, creator of “This is Us” and writer of “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” comes out swinging with his directorial debut in the new film, “Life Itself.” The ensemble cast includes Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Annette Benning, Olivia Cooke and Antonio Banderas. This indie film presents a creative and tear-jerking story similar to Fogelman’s previous works.

Fogelman is known for creating characters that are interwoven into each other’s lives by the smallest details. He likes to show how people’s actions have a domino effect that impacts the lives of characters in the present or future. Similar to “This is Us,” Fogelman crafts a multigenerational narrative into his story where the actions of the characters have repercussions on their children. Fogelman has a talent for crafting well-constructed characters, showing them as more than the audience would generally expect of them.

The narrative is shown through the perspective of those who are central to the story. The film is constructed into four chapters, each focusing on either a single character or an entire family. A noteworthy point to mention is about halfway through the film, the story’s setting switches from New York City to Spain. Characters speak in Spanish, accompanied with English subtitles, organically fitting the setting. It would be worth watching a second time to notice the small details of every scene, figuring out how everything ends up meshing together.

The content in this film is extremely mature and dark, deserving of its R-rating. This is where Fogelman’s form of storytelling begins to slip. One of Fogelman’s advantages in writing for “This is Us” is that all of the really heavy content such as miscarriages and grieving over loved ones, was spread out over about 18 hours. In “Life Itself,” Fogelman attempts to put an entire season worth of content into a two-hour film, which can feel too much for an audience to endure. If this were a short mini-series, the story could have had a better balance between the light and dark moments of the film.

“Life Itself” is a well-constructed and well-performed film, despite how exhausting it is to get through. It is highly recommended to bring a friend and a tissue box, because it is a lot to handle.  Even though this film is hard to watch, it does accurately portray how life can change instantly and how we must accept the life that is given to us and make the best of it with our choices.

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