Life Itself review – too much calamity | Film

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Tragedy stalks the streets of Manhattan in Dan Fogelman’s tooth-grindingly dreadful drama. In fact, scratch that. Tragedy doesn’t just stalk, it climbs behind the wheel of a New York City bus and ploughs into several key cast members – repeatedly, from numerous different angles, to make sure we get the point. This stupid person’s idea of a clever movie is keen that we get the point, right down to providing an overbearing, hand-holding voiceover, which guides us through its multiple levels of plot contrivance as if the audience is a not particularly bright toddler.

The film is divided into chapters, each of which derails its key character with a lachrymose score and lashings of life-altering calamity. Central to all this is the key thesis – that life is unpredictable. Fogelman gussies up this “revelation” with some pretentious guff about “life itself being the ultimate unreliable narrator”.

Fogelman is best known as a screenwriter of films (Tangled and Crazy, Stupid, Love) and TV (This Is Us). But despite his skill and experience, this screenplay feels gimmicky and sophomoric in its reliance on outlandish coincidences and tricksy devices. Central to the film, and the link between the chapters, is the relationship between college sweethearts Will (Oscar Isaac) and Abby (Olivia Wilde). He is intense and smouldering, she is cool and slightly damaged. Their happiness is of the shivering, intense variety that feels like a written invitation to catastrophe.

But one thing we learn about life (itself) is that catastrophe needs no invitation. And whole other lifetimes of misery are grafted on to one initial traumatic event. These include that of druggy punk chick Dylan (Olivia Cooke) and Rodrigo (Adrian Marrero/Alex Monner), the son of a Spanish olive farmer. Despite the suffering ladled on to the characters, I remained stonily unmoved throughout.

Watch the trailer for Life Itself.

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Source: The Guardian
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