By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
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.
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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.