Life Itself (2018) Review

Confusing and Messy

Life Itself (2018) Review
By Brendan Frye
Sep 15, 2018

Life Itself (2018) Review

SCORE: 4/10

Dan Fogelman has made a name for himself with the show This is Us, a highly popular family drama, that plays with time in a unique, and engaging way. Now he bring us the film Life Itself, similarly leaping through  timelines, three generations of a family, and jumping countries for good measure. While the concepts are interesting, and some of the onscreen chemistry is fantastic, the overall product, feels undercooked and overly complex.

The film gets off to an interesting start, playing with the concept of the narrator, the temporal order of scenes, and even throwing in some great humour. Sadly things go downhill from there. Starting the main cast of characters, the film introduces us to Will and Abby (Isaac and Wilde) who have a seemingly great life in downtown New York City, until things go south, and that sets off the train of events that is filled with great concepts and great performances, but never gives enough connection to the audience to let any one family or character click with the audience.

Will in his therapy, with  Dr Cait (Bening), as his parents (Patinkin and Smart) take care of his daughter. As this goes on, over in Spain Saccione (Banderas), worker Javier (Peris-Mencheta) his wife Isabel (Costa), and their son Rodrigo (Monner) all work to live their best lives, before they ultimately intersect with the family of Will and Abby

Life Itself TIFF 2018 Review
Life Itself

At the core, there are some good concepts, and the there are some fantastic performances that, if give the right attention and time, could have made for a memorable film. Sadly, what we have feels muddled, and never manages to hit it’s mark. There are some great comedic moments, and even some touching moments that may hit home for some viewers, but without Fogelman allowing for the screen time and attention these characters need, much of the final product falls flat.

The gimmick that sits at the center of Life Itself, to put it bluntly is its weakest element. If these characters were given time to grow, and live with the viewer, all the impacts they feel on screen would resonate far better. Even a great early segment featuring the fantastic Samuel L Jackson can’t save this mess.

Fogelman somehow got so wrapped up with a concept, that he forgot to make a film that works with the subject matter. If you are a fan of his past work, Life Itself could have some value, but as a stand alone film, there is just not enough to recommend. It would be worth a watch if you caught it on streaming or an inflight movie, but watching this at a theatre is a waste of everyone’s time and money.


Life Itsels is filled with interesting interesting concepts, and some of the onscreen chemistry is fantastic, the overall product feels undercooked and overly complex.

Life Itself (2018) Review
  • Name
    Life Itself
  • Release Date
    Sep 21, 2018
  • Runtime
    117 min min
  • Director
    Dan Fogelman
  • Cast
    Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Annette Bening, Mandy Patinkin
  • Genre
    Drama, Romance
  • Editors Score

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