IMDb Link: The Life Ahead (2020)
Director: Edoardo Ponti
Writers: Ugo Chiti, Romain Gary, Fabio Natale
Stars: Sophia Loren, Ibrahima Gueye, Renato Carpentieri
Synopsis: In seaside Italy, a Holocaust survivor with a daycare business takes in a 12-year-old street kid who recently robbed her.
Whilst the film does not work for me on many levels, I do firstly want to give credit to the two leading performances by Sophia Loren and Ibrahima Gueye. Loren is not a surprise here as she gives a wonderful, yet subtle, performance that brings out the most in her role as Madame Rosa. However, Ibrahima Gueye is a sensation as Momo, a young orphan refugee who is trying to make ends meet and adapt to the surroundings he is in. They are both incredibly engaging and help push the story along as much as they can.
I was interested in the concept for the movie, particularly looking at the life of an orphan refugee and seeing the struggles that they go through at such a young age. There is still plenty of room for discussion and acceptance for refugees, particularly children and I appreciate the filmmakers for trying to tackle that subject matter. When the film is focused on Momo and him learning from people like Madame Rosa, that is the strongest part of this film.
This is a film that needed a longer runtime to let the relationship between Momo and Madame Rosa develop naturally. Whilst I like the introduction between them and what that establishes immediately, the bonding develops in a way that feels rushed and unnatural. There isn’t a natural progression, instead going from one polar opposite feeling to another. The emotional connection I had to watching their relationship hits in specific moments, but I could not care about the journey of it.
Not only was the emotional journey of the film rushed, but there were several steps within it that made no logical sense. This is particularly with the character of Dr. Coen (played by Renato Carpentieri), the man who originally was looking after Momo. The way that Dr. Coen finds Madame Rosa to be the victim of the robbery with no information from Momo, as well as knowing that she is becoming unwell from her age and asking her to look after Momo for him after he robbed her, is something that is completely unnatural and quite bizarre to watch. This is only one of a few moments that feel unbelievable within the film.
The relationship between Momo and Madame Rosa is the main storyline within this film, but the story is more complex than that. However, I struggled to care about any of the other storylines running through this film, except perhaps the relationship that Momo has with the shopkeeper, Hamil. There’s a weird sequence involving a bad CGI lioness which I believe must have been symbolism for something, but is never expanded upon and feels completely out of place in comparison to the rest of the film.
Sadly, this film ended up being a disappointment for me. Whilst the performances from Loren and Gueye are strong, there is sadly not enough here to keep you engaged, rather confused about where the plot is going and what the point of the story is about. It might connect for some people, but unfortunately it was not for me.
The Life Ahead is available to watch on Netflix now.