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Life Feels Good

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Life Feels Good Movie Poster Image
Feel-good coming-of-age movie has nudity, sex.
  • NR
  • 2013
  • 112 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

With the help of strong family support, dedicated teachers, and innovative educational techniques, the lead character, who has cerebral palsy, is able to express his thoughts and feelings, revealing himself to be a smart, sensitive, and curious person. The mentally challenged are portrayed with dignity. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mateusz is a perceptive, intelligent, and keen observer of what he sees around him and what he has been taught by his parents; with the help of an innovative teacher, he devotes himself to learning how to communicate what is in his mind and express his feelings so his family and caretakers can understand him. 

Violence

Mateusz observes domestic abuse in the apartment building across from his window; the father of his love interest slaps her hard in the face and slaps his wife. Mateusz tries to drop a bottle on the head of this man when he's below Mateusz's window. Mateusz is shown going into convulsions; in one instance, his mother falls backwards while trying to take care of him, gets injured, and must go to the hospital. He tries to commit suicide by falling out of his chair and falling down a flight of stairs.

Sex

Brief female nudity in two scenes, breasts. Female intern sneaks into lead character's room with a pornographic magazine, opens up the magazine to show the lead character, then removes her top so he can feel her breasts. Orderly in a mental health facility shown looking through the pages of a pornographic magazine. Lead character, through narration, talks of how he used to rate female breasts on a scale of one to ten. Lead character can hear his brother loudly having sex with his girlfriend in the other room. 

Language

Infrequent profanity: "F--king," "t-ts." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Vodka and beer drinking. Cigarette smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Life Feels Good is a 2013 Polish drama about a young man with cerebral palsy struggling to communicate his thoughts and feelings with those around him. It's in Polish with English subtitles. Some female nudity -- breasts. The lead character is obsessed with breasts, so much so that as a young man, he rates on a scale of 1 to 10 the breasts of the women around him in the institution where he has been sent to live. A young intern who seems to make a connection with the lead character enters his room late at night, shows him pictures from a pornographic magazine, then removes her top so he can feel her breasts. In another scene, the lead character hears his brother and girlfriend having sex in the other room. Some drinking, cigarette smoking. Language includes "f--king" and "t-ts."  The main character tries to commit suicide by falling out of his chair and falling down a flight of stairs. Overall, this is an inspiring coming-of-age story that passionately explores the hidden intelligence and unique qualities of those classified as "mentally challenged."

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What's the story?

In LIFE FEELS GOOD, Mateusz (David Ogrodnik) is a young man born with cerebral palsy in Poland in the 1980s. He cannot walk, needs help with eating, dressing, and cleaning himself, and is unable to communicate his thoughts and feelings. While his loving mother and playful father do all they can for him, Mateusz, through voice-over narration, is a perceptive and sensitive person unable to express the depth of his humanity to those around him. He is befriended by Anka, a neighbor in the building across the courtyard from the window he looks out of from his apartment, a girl his age who becomes his first "girlfriend" and perhaps real friend. She takes him on adventures around the city, but must leave due to her abusive father. When Mateusz's father passes away and his mother becomes too old to take care of him, Mateusz is sent to an institution. He hates living there initially, and even tries to commit suicide by falling out of his chair and falling down a flight of stairs. He experiences another deep connection, this time with an intern named Magda, who spends hours engaging with him, but her personal problems cause her to abruptly quit. But when an innovative instructor comes to the institution with a new way to teach communication to Mateusz, Mateusz eagerly learns and begins to find a way to communicate with his family and those around him. 

Is it any good?

This manages to be a feel-good coming-of-age movie that avoids the usual mawkish cliches of feel-good coming-of-age movies. Incapable of communication for much of the movie, Mateusz (portrayed in an incredible performance by David Ogrodnik) is revealed to be a sensitive, observant, and perceptive man quite aware of what's going on around him even if many in his world have written him off as a "vegetable." He's also obsessed with breasts, and filled with a murderous hatred for the abusive father of his first "girlfriend." In other words, he isn't a sanctimonious saint, but a human trying desperately to let the world know that he's alive. 

Refreshingly, the movie doesn't rely on Hollywood-style bombast to heighten and overdramatize a story that doesn't need it. The teacher who teaches Mateusz how to communicate with a series of symbols in a binder, for instance, isn't made out to be some larger-than-life character like the kind Robin Williams often played when cast as a doctor or poetry instructor. She does her job, and so when the breakthrough happens, it's all the more rewarding. Life Feels Good is funny and poignant without being sappy and sentimental; no easy feat. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about coming-of-age movies. How does Life Feels Good one compare to others you've seen?

  • How is the historical backdrop of the setting -- Poland in the '80s, '90s, and 2000s -- shown in the movie? 

  • What does the movie say about the treatment of the mentally challenged? What does it suggest about possibilities of treatment and education of those who had previously been deemed incapable of communication? 

Movie details

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