They say there is no greater journey than life itself. Well, one thing about life that isn’t great is the journey of sitting through movies like Life Itself. Even though the ensemble drama has an incredible cast, even they can’t save this mess which is schmaltzy to the point where it becomes nauseating.
I mean, if the movie wants to demonstrate how life is full of unexpected surprises, why make it so depressing for the sake of being depressing? The way that the storylines are connected is practically designed to demand buckets of tears from the audience members. Just on a side note, if you’re having feelings of depression and want to go to a movie, I would advise against seeing this.
It’s hard to go deep into the storylines without giving away spoilers. So, I’ll just give a basic summary of each one: Will (Oscar Isaac) is reeling from the absence of his wife Abby (Olivia Wilde) and talks with his therapist Dr. Morris (Annette Bening); Will and Abby’s daughter Dylan (Olivia Cooke) grows up to become a rebellious musician; and the last storylines takes place in Spain where Javier (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) and his wife Isabel (Laia Costa) see their marriage crumble after their son Rodrigo (Alex Monner) becomes traumatized by a horrific accident.
As you may have noticed, the description of Dylan’s storyline is very short and brief. But that’s because hers is the shortest and least fleshed out. As a result, the character of Dylan ends up being a “rebellious punk musician” archetype. Olivia Cooke does give it her all but even she couldn’t elevate the material.
The rest of the actors try to give it their all as well. Although the characters they’re given are either poorly developed or completely unlikeable like the character of Will. Even before Abby’s absence, it becomes clear that Will is a bit of an asshat. At one point, he even says that he loved Abby like a stalker. Yikes.
I’d say the only actor or actress who attempts to make the movie’s machinated sentimentality feel genuine is Laia Costa. Despite playing a thinly written character, Costa still showcases both earnesty and radiance which makes this dour film watchable. She also manages to craft together a delicate portrait of maternal love in a movie that depicts its women in such a poor manner.
The unlikeable factor some of the characters have is one thing that makes Life Itself an insufferable experience. That and how the film attempts to tackle almost every piece of depressing subject matter and cram it into a two-hour picture: Grief, suicide, illness, sexual abuse, depression, etc..
In conclusion, don’t go see Life Itself. Life may be a long, unpredictable journey but it’s still too short to see dour, depressing films such as this. Yes, the actors are good but saying Oscar Isaac or Annette Bening gave a good performance is like saying water is wet. All the great actors involved deserve better than this unbearable drek.