Directed by: #EdoardoPonti
“An ageing Holocaust survivor forges a bond with a young immigrant from Senegal who recently robbed her.”
The Life Ahead is an Italian drama production which is based on Romain Gary's 1975 book, The Life Before Us. A short synopsis, a lengthy synopsis nor any trailer could have prepared me for the journey I was about to delve into with this film. Before pressing play, I really didn’t have any set expectations that were required to be met so I was pleasantly surprised to be left with a beautiful warmth spreading through my body as the credits rolled.
The screenplay, by Edoardo Ponti and Ugo Chiti, captures the essence of the book itself in a sleek presentation. Although some moments of the film do feel quite slow paced, it doesn’t diminish the overall elegance of the experience. Actually, one can view those slower stretches as a moment of reflection instead; an unintentional timeframe to let the story and its worth sink into the mind and body before travelling forward again. There are many pieces of dialogue that I will personally carry with me moving ahead in my own life as well. The writing is thought-provoking in a range of forms which makes the story malleable to any viewer — acting as an enhancement to how audiences interpret the events in front of them and how they positively or negatively engage with the characters. Of course, this kind of writing is something that has been shown many times before, but The Life Ahead is an engaging and sentimental example of this; with other aspects of the film flaunting their appeal throughout, the writing compliments them nicely.
The cinematography, by Angus Hudson, carries the film with a polished style and somehow a sense of opulence. Using ‘opulence’ to intertwine with a story of quite dark and saddening themes may seem out of place, but the cinematography is the one element that brings sincere light to such a story. It continuously stands as the centre of the film, everything appears to simply blend with the ambience that the camera creates. The distinct switch between the usage of tripod shots and handheld shots changes the atmosphere of each scene as well, especially when the choice of shaking, handheld shots are implemented in moments of anger or frustration for the characters. This only further emphasises the cinematography’s importance in providing the basis for the film in its entirety.
The adored Sophia Loren returns to film after 10 years with a magnetic performance as Madame Rosa. Audiences have already witnessed how she can hold the screen like no other, and her presence in this film is no different from what the public anticipate when seeing Loren’s name on the cast list. As a compassionate, parenting figure to many in the role of Madame Rosa, Loren’s approach to the character is truly authentic with convincing line delivery and emotional beats handled with grace. She brings the character to life with warmth and vibrancy, making her onscreen appearance extremely memorable. However, Ibrahima Gueye as Momo is undoubtably the star of The Life Ahead. As Loren returns to the screen in this film, Gueye begins his journey here. As a debut performance, Gueye goes above and beyond what one would expect as his emotions are unbelievably strong and his energy as the character is constantly fuelled and bursting with life. To state that I’m impressed by him is an understatement, I’m very excited to see what he can bring next to audiences around the world. Together, Loren and Gueye create an entrancing chemistry between their characters — the bond that flourishes between Madame Rosa and Momo is seen to grow in an enthralling and almost hypnotic way.
The Life Ahead is a hidden gem within the bundles of films currently available on Netflix. It is an incredible story to watch unfold; one of heartwarming memories as well as heartbreaking occurrences. Grab yourself a blanket, maybe some tea, and definitely some tissues — equip yourself, viewer, as you are in for a delightful yet delicate cinematic ride.