Friday, January 1, 2021

La Vita Davanti a Se/The Life Ahead

Movie Name:
La Vita Davanti a Se/The Life Ahead
Year of Release: 2020
Director: Edoardo Ponti
Starring: Sophia Loren, Ibrahima Gueye, Renato Carpentieri, Iosif Diego Pirvu, Massimiliano Rossi, Abril Zamora, Babak Karimi
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6
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Synopsis and Review:
"The Life Ahead" is actress Sophia Loren's most recent work for the big screen since Rob Marshall's "Nine" which came out in 2009. Since then the actress acted in a made for TV film and a short, but this is her first protagonist role in quite some time, in a film coincidentally directed by her son Edoardo Ponti. The film, an adaptation of the novel "The Life Before Us" by Romain Gary, follows the story of Madam Rosa, who lives in southern Italy. She's an Holocaust survivor and also a former prostitute, who now makes ends meet by taking care of children of "working women". Her physician, Dr. Cohen asks her to take care of a young Senegalese boy, Momo who coincidentally just robbed her. Momo is getting tangled in some criminal activities, which coupled with his defensive behavior, immediately clashes with Madam Rosa's personality and expectations. Momo slowly discovers Madam Rosa has health issues, and also keeps a part of herself and her story secluded in the basement of the building, a room where she has saved artifacts and precious memories, a part of her own heritage. As their relationship evolves and becomes closer, the more Momo takes upon himself to also be a caregiver for Madam Rosa, soon realizing she fears ending up in a Hospital, and dying there, away from her home.
"The Life Ahead" while not priming for its originality, is nonetheless a film that manages to capture the relationship between these two lead characters and the microcosms of supporting characters quite well. The film definitely has certain aspects of Gus Van Sant's "Good Will Hunting" to it for instance (the rebel, working class lead who hides his vulnerability), but it allows for the relationship between the young Momo and Madam Rosa to evolve and for their roles to shift, essentially from protege to protector (and vice versa). Even if Madam Rosa's character is never fully explored as it should, nor Momo's for that matter, the film still manages to hold its interest, mostly because it attempts to capture a moment in time, the tribulations these characters go through in this particular period of their lives. The film does wrap itself up quite quickly, cutting away some interesting dramatic arcs it could depict, particularly towards the end of the narrative, but Sophia Loren manages to carry the film, creating Madam Rosa just with enough warmth, fragility and authority to capture everyone's attention. The supporting cast is equally solid, with Renator Carpentieri and Babak Karimi in particular providing good support. Worth watching.