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Life Itself


Stars: Oscar Isaac, Olivia Cooke, Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, Mandy Patinkin, Olivia Cooke, Jean Smart, Samuel L Jackson

Director: Dan Fogelman

Director Fogelman's follow-up to his indie hit Danny Collins is something of a curate's egg. There are some jolly good bits, bits that will make you sniffle, and some not-so-good bits that could do with some rustic pruning.

On the whole I liked it, but I'd be the first to admit that it's not without its faults. The beginning, for starters: counsellor Bening is conversing with Will (Isaac) whose wife Abby (Wilde) has left him. The scene cuts to Bening walking in front of a bus, which is related to later incidents in the film. Frankly Dan, especially with over-enthusiastic narration by Jackson, this didn't work at all.

Then there's the relationship between Will and Abby, which is too protracted in its similar scenes. And they have a dog called F**kface - it has its name on its bowl - something the script dwells on at some length. It's difficult to write about some other things here without revealing key points in the plot, but suffice to say it's the kind of film where disparate threads weave together - before eventually getting to where it was going in the first place.

Will and Abby's daughter Dylan (Cooke, scarcely in it) is a wild child whose destiny is intertwined with events in the film's best section, set in Spain, where the owner of an olive grove (Banderas, underplaying beautifully) promotes strong, silent Javier (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) to foreman, only to fall in love with his wife (enchanting Laia Costa) and son Rodrigo.

This part totally delivers, unlike scenes back in America, where a 'but what was actually being said' exchange between Dylan and her grandfather (Patinkin) is a glaring error.

And yet the emotional pull of the tangled tale is finally irresistible, and you will well up at the end.

David Quinlan

USA 2018. UK Distributor: Sky Cinema/FilmNation. Colour (unspecified).
115 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 29 Dec 2018