This is not us.
Synopsis: As a young New York couple goes from college romance to marriage and the birth of their first child, the unexpected twists of their journey create reverberations that echo over continents and through lifetimes in Life Itself. Director and writer Dan Fogelman examines the perils and rewards of everyday life in a multigenerational saga featuring an international ensemble. Set in New York City and Carmona, Spain, Life Itself celebrates the human condition and all of its complications with humor, poignancy and love. (VVS Films)
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, and Olivia Cooke
Writer: Dan Fogelman
Director: Dan Fogelman
Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 118mins
The problem with this was perhaps complacency from Dan Fogelman as Life Itself comes nowhere near the level of emotion of This Is Us. The type of emotion present here felt so manufactured and fake that it was difficult to ever become invested in or even care about whatever was happening. Obviously, being a films means some manufacturing by definition but the film was so overwrought and contrived that very little if any of the plot was believable. It seemed like every choice made here was to manufacture emotion to the detriment of the plot as a whole.
The plot here consisted of a series of interconnected stories that went nowhere for the longest time until they managed to come back together at the end for an unearned ending. Without giving anything away, the stories consisted of a young couple named Will (Isaac) and Abby (Wilde), a young woman named Dylan (Cooke), a love triangle between a farm owner named Mr. Saccione (Antonio Banderas), his virtuous labourer named Javier (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), and his new wife Isabel (Laia Costa), and a young man named Rodrigo (Àlex Monner). These stories were connected plot wise but the theme that they all had in common was tragedy. The problem with these stories went hand in hand with the overly contrived nature of the film while also being just plain stupid at times.
The characters here were never really characters since they were only defined by a series of contrivances whose purpose was only the manufacturing of fake emotion. This decision left them underdeveloped which made it difficult to ever care about or become invested in any of them. The film never gave us enough time to make a connection with any of them. Instead of developing the characters, the film uses way too much narration that served no purpose other than over-narrating the events on screen. The contrived and overly melodramatic nature of these stories were so predictable and uninteresting and the tone was so over the place that the film became dull and hard to follow thus a chore to watch. With a running time just under 2 hours, the film could have easily cut 10-15 minutes without incident. Speaking of editing, the stories could also have been told in a more cohesive way, not making it come off as a mess.
The acting was okay at best across the board despite the god awful writing, however, some stood out further than others. The majority of the characters were unlikable, the plot was incredibly contrived and manipulative, and the dialog was so cheesy and cringe-worthy at times. The better performances came from the actors with the few likable characters who coincidentally had the least screen time and did not want to be there. Isaac was okay and arguably did the most as Will, the most unlikable character of the film. Wilde as Abby and Cooke as Abby were there. Banderas as the paper-thin Saccione, Mandy Patinkin as Dylan’s worried grandfather Irwin and Annette Bening as Will’s cliche therapist respectively were perhaps the best but both clearly did not want to be there.
Overall, this was a bad drama that fails to elicit any genuine emotion due to its overly contrived and unbelievable nature. It tries to be deep, however, it just comes off as insulting. The main focus of the film seemed to be to go out of its way to manufacture as much fake emotion as possible to the detriment of everything else, including the characters and the story. The film was both dull, cliche, and predictable, the characters were paper thin, and the plot was an incohesive mess. Fans of “weepers”, for lack of a better term, and/or This Is Us may find enough to enjoy here but everyone else should stay away from this one.
*Life Itself opens in theatres on September 21st*