Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: The Life Ahead

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Copyright: Netflix

Immediately troubled by both its premise and synopsis, The Life Ahead dropped onto Netflix relatively quietly. I thought a film starring Sophia Lauren would’ve been bigger news than this, but evidently not. Netflix seem rather hesitant to push this Edoardo Ponti-directed piece, and seemingly for good reason. Not just because of how heavy the subject matter is, but also because of how much it seems to balance on so many tragic backgrounds coming together in a way that doesn’t feel tacky or soppy. It’s a near-impossible challenge, and the man who brought us Coming & Going, a romantic comedy where a temporarily wheelchair-bound man finds love, is not the man I’d want guiding us through this tumultuous storm.  

The Life Ahead hits upon a great deal of narrative convention. A rebellious young boy with no direction in life turns out to have some artistic skill hidden away. Tapped into to showcase his potential in the wider world, it all becomes relatively sickening to watch, with such stories of inspiration becoming expressionless features looking to drag emotions out of their audience. There’s a surprising amount of filler throughout, which is supposed to come across as an unveiling of the humanity underneath the thick skin of our main characters, but it comes across as rather muted and unnecessary.  

Speaking of muted and unnecessary, the amount The Life Ahead tries to achieve in such a short amount of time is incredibly boastful and ridiculously silly. How it expected to incorporate so many different views of life, drama, comedy, coming-of-age, and historic moments, all to the tune of a few ill-remembered pop songs and one recognisable face to hold it together is beyond me. A horrid CGI lioness makes an appearance too, for reasons that are still quite unclear to me. A lot of this film is unclear, both in what it wishes to say and what it wants for its characters. Only Ponti knows what he wants to achieve with this, but he struggles immensely to bring it to the screen in a coherent way. All the pieces are there, they’re just shrouded in bland mystery and not brought together in a way that feels unique or at all compelling.  

It’s nice to see that blandness and cliché isn’t something solely available to us in the English language, as it turns out, Italy can do it too. Whilst I’m surprised they manage not to fumble the very fragile aspects of the film, Ponti doesn’t manage to escape the boredom that comes from its flatlining direction. There are moments that verge on complete disaster, most come from the rather underwhelming production value, but The Life Ahead is decent enough. A nice vehicle for Sophia Lauren to mount a return with, but it’ll not be anything greater than that.