Rated: R
Release Date: 09/21/2018
Production Company: Amazon Studios

Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, Olivia Cooke, Laia Costa, Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas.

Director: Dan Fogelman. Producers: Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Erika Hampson, Michael Jackman, Aaron Ryder and Nicolas Tapia. Executive Producers: Glen Basner, Ben Browning, Alison Cohen, Adrian Guerra, Isaac Klausner and Milan Popelka. Screenwriter: Dan Fogelman: Cinematographer: Brett Pawlak.
By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

Dan Fogelman, creator of NBC’s Emmy winning show, “This is Us” directed and wrote “Life Itself,” a jarring romantic drama that relentlessly tugs at the old heartstrings.

The twisty, dark film features a stellar, cast led by Annette Bening (upcoming “Captain Marvel”), Oscar Isaac (upcoming “The Addams Family”), Antonio Banderas (TV’s “Genius”) and Olivia Wilde (“Love the Coopers”).

“Life Itself” is told in five different chapters and begins with an odd F-bomb laden narration from Samuel L. Jackson (upcoming “Shaft”). The film follows New Yorkers Will (Isaac) and his lovely wife Abby (Wilde), and their journey through college life and marriage.

The twists along the way are surprisingly connected by one tragic event.

On the surface Will and Abby’s marriage seems perfect. They’re ecstatic about having their first child Dylan (Kya Kruse as young Dylan and later Olivia Cooke, “Ready Player One”). They enjoy dinner and lunch celebrations with Will’s parents (Mandy Patinkin, TV’s “Homeland”) and Jean Smart, TV’s “Legion”) and everything is wonderful.

Then through flashbacks, we see Will in a drunken stupor at a local coffee shop, hunched over his laptop working on a screenplay and singing his favorite Bob Dylan song. He makes such a fool of himself that he’s thrown out of the place.

Moments later Will is seated uncomfortably inside the office of his therapist (Bening). He claims to be doing better since being released from a mental institution. But, Will hasn’t been the same since Abby left him. In fact, he’s a total wreck. The reason why becomes shockingly clear.

This sweeping story goes beyond the Big Apple and moves to an olive farm in Spain which is owned and operated by the pensive Mr. Saccione (Banderas).

He’s a very wealthy man, and a lonely one too. He makes a point to get to know his workers and tries to become their friends. There’s one foreman named Javier (Sergio Peris-Mencheta, TV’s “Snowfall”) who likes to keep his distance from the boss and smartly his wife Isabel (Laia Costa) and young son Rodrigo (Adrian Marrero) too.

It seems Mr. Saccione has a warm spot in his heart for both. A little too warm for Isabel. His kindness and generosity prove too much for Javier and causes problems for his family.

“Life Itself” winds and wraps its way around one startling event after the other. I must admit, it gets a bit tedious and Fogelman gets rather overzealous with the sentimental story.

Actually, this is one of those movies that has so many moving parts, that you can’t reveal too much for risk of diminishing the stunning blows that seem to come out of nowhere and throw you for a loop.

Despite the often-heavy-handed approach, the cast delivers exceptional performances especially Isaac, who in my humble opinion is one of the most underrated actors working in the biz today. His talent overshadows this well-intentioned, yet bizarre little film.

Editor's Note: Be sure to catch my movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays now at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 93.1 FM and 1530 AM.

Check Out This Trailer For "LIFE ITSELF"

Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.


Brian's Song Title: Brian's Song
Year Released: 1971
Running Time: 90
Production Company: Screen Gems (Sony)
Director: Buzz Kulik
Director of Photography: Joseph F. Biroc
Screenwriter: Gale Sayers, Al Silverman and William Blinn
Author: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

REVIEW: This Review Reprinted In Honor Of Movie Critic Bill Gibron--May 14, 1961--May 11, 2018. Pictured Top Left.

Now with summer behind us, the arrival of fall means weekends attending and watching plenty of football games. Whether they’re college, pro or high school, I’m all over them.

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