Life itself. The word “life” alone musters up a mosaic beyond comprehension: stories, characters, the beginnings and ends of lives and their intersections. The vastness of it all leads, as well, to vagueness, it takes on so many grandiose shapes and forms. With this in mind, writer-director Dan Fogelman and the producers of NBC’s This Is Us should feel right at home, and because of life’s great mystery, it’s a wonder that they even tried to tackle it.
Working from his own script, Fogelman demonstrates an understanding of the rigor and surprise of life, but it does not translate in his words and in his overall storytelling. There are moments that are meant to be humorous: a rather left-fielded narration from Samuel L. Jackson, the intensity and dry humor of one of the protagonists, Will (Oscar Isaac). Still, nothing falls into place. It is as if the filmmakers were trying to force in laughs at the beginning of the film to compensate for the weighty drama to follow in the next two acts.
In the end, everything connects relatively well. For once, as a filmgoer, I did not care for the journey, not even that of these lives. With such an exquisite cast to work with, LIfe Itself is anxiety-inducing, trying to silence the fears of living life to the fullest and instead tears open a world of possibilities of what could go wrong.
Life Itself, I feared, would veer too deeply into sentimentality; but in fact, the film is not sentimental enough. WIth strong adult themes to consider, Life Itself is not awarded our Dove approval.
The Dove Take
Nothing feels sacred or valued, making the journey of life unbearable to watch.