Please keep in mind that this review contains spoilers!
The legendary Italian actress Sophia Loren has returned to the big screen triumphantly in the sensitive Italian drama film ‘The Life Ahead’ (Original title La vita davanti a sé) about survival, prejudice and social injustice, but it’s also about resistance and love. The motion picture is directed by Edoardo Ponti, who created the screenplay alongside Ugo Chiti, based on the novel ‘The life before us’ by the French writer Romain Gary. By the way, Ponti is Sophia Loren’s son.
The storyline follows Momo (Ibrahima Gueye), a 12-year old Senegalese Muslim, orphan, who lives on the streets of an Italian neighbourhood, doing some scams. After robbing Madame Rosa’s bag (Sophia Loren), an elderly woman, in a bustling market, Momo is forced to give her back the objects he had robbed by Doctor Coen (Renato Carpentieri), who looks after Momo and also is Madame Rosa’s doctor. At this point, Rosa and Momo have their first real contact face to face. Rosa, a former prostitute who runs a home looking after the children of sex workers, is asked to take in Momo by Doctor Coen. Madame Rosa and Momo are reluctant about living under the same roof, even for a short period. However, they are practically forced by the doctor to live together. At this time, the narrative establishes the conflict. Sequence by sequence, the undesirable relationship becomes a deeply bonded friendship. Rosa tries to help Momo to find his way in life, as he learns she is a survivor of the Holocaust in the Second War and an ex-prostitute who now cares for the children of other prostitutes.
The plot is conventional but no less interesting. It explores old -contemporary matters in our society such as social injustices and prejudice, social exclusion, migration of (Jewish in the past and currently Asian and Africans populations) people who have left their family, culture and home, to flee from famine, Civil War, etc, in search of asylum and to build a better life in another place.
It’s easy to get involved by Rosa and Momo’s issues. Sophia Loren doesn’t need to do much effort to impress us with her grace and majesty. She brings to the character humanity, truth and nuances with her sensitive acting through gestures, gazes, expressions, showing all her talent and charisma. She is one of the most talented and renowned Italian actors in the history of Italian Cinema. In 1962, Sophia became the first non-English speaker winner of Academy Award as ‘Best Actress’ for her role in ‘Two women’ (1961), a foreign movie.
What can I say about Ibrahima Gueye acting? The young boy appears very comfortable in front of the cameras and alongside Mrs Loren. Sophia Loren and Ibrahima have a perfect match and both magically lead this film which is a type of movie focused on the backgrounds of its characters. Ibrahima transmitted plausibly and realistically the mix of feelings such as anger, revolt and innocence that are necessary for his role. Momo is a rebellious boy and a trouble maker, who has gone through so much in his short but complicated life, such as losing his mother, lack of affection, poverty, being a refugee, etc. Those tragedies explain his incorrect behaviour, such as getting involved with drug dealers.
Rosa represents someone who can give him love and trust which he needs to have his redemption. But, at a certain point of the narrative in a good plot twist, he becomes the one who supports Rosa to get her redemption. She is suffering from deteriorating physical health and the corroding effects of dementia, but she doesn’t want to spend her last days at the hospital. So, it’s time for Momo to save her from that destiny getting her away from there, and he hides her in the basement or “Batcavern” as the kids she looks after called it. This place is a kind of safe haven from her scarring memories of the Holocaust.
Rosa and Momo are victims of the social injustices and social exclusion of the world, but also survivors. They get along with each other because they are empathetic about their pains, traumas and disappointments. It’s certainly the best movie I have watched this year! The film is a pure poetry extract from the chaos of this wild world. It’s worth to watch it!
PS: The movie might be nominated for the Academy Award next year.
Check out the official trailer below:
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