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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Stresses the importance of moving past tragedies and setbacks. Life can be messy and ugly and knock you down, but it's up to people to get up, move on, and live the best life possible.
Positive Role Models
Narrator says we need to follow a hero, but there aren't really heroes in the story; all main characters are complicated, flawed, many hurting from losses. Will and Abby share a beautiful love, but Will has difficulties managing his feelings and overcoming grief. Abby is intelligent, kind. Javier has a loving, poetic soul but allows self-pity, jealousy to overcome him. Bella is a devoted, supportive wife and mother. Rigo is gentle, big-hearted. Smart women; emotional men.
Violence & Scariness
(Spoiler alert!) In possibly movie's most upsetting scene, a character unexpectedly dies by suicide using a gun. Blood splatter is shown in at least three different scenes. Someone writes a screenplay in which a character is run over by a bus (victim shown on the ground with blood) because in movie's reality, a character is struck, killed by a bus. A young child witnesses the accident, experiences PTSD. Talk of character's parents being killed in a car crash (one victim decapitated). A character falls ill, dies of cancer. Story of a character being molested as a child/teen; flashback shows her stealing his gun, threatening him, shooting him in the knee. Will acts unhinged at a coffee shop, has to be physically escorted out. A young woman punches another woman after smashing her cell phone.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two couples kiss, caress each other in bed (separately). A college-age couple has a pregnancy scare. Love scenes show close-ups of faces kissing and arms embracing on beds. A young woman's sexuality is referenced as one of the reasons others find her frightening and intimidating. A man jokes about being unable to masturbate to thoughts of his wife or therapist.
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Lots of cursing, including a dog's comical name, "F--kface." Frequent use of words such as "f--k," "motherf----r," "f---ing," "s--t," "d--k," "c--k," "t-ts," "a--hole," "what a gyp," "damn," "goddamn," "bitch," and Spanish curse words like "joda" and "puta" (subtitled).
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Products & Purchases
Brands/products seen include Apple MacBook, Amazon, Diet Coke, iPhone, Renault, Land Rover.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters smoke cigarettes and weed, and a few different characters drink at parties, dinners, etc. Will puts Jack Daniels in his double espresso along with Xanax. More than one character drinks to excess. A formerly institutionalized character and his therapist discuss his meds.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Life Itself is an emotional family drama from the writer-director of the hit TV drama This Is Us. It takes place in New York and Spain during different timelines and follows multiple generations of two families who are tied together due to a couple of fateful days. This movie is definitely more intense/mature than the show thanks to several upsetting tragedies, including a street accident, a death by suicide, a grave illness, and talk of fatal car crashes and molestation. Blood is shown, and sympathetic characters suffer. There's also quite a bit of drinking (sometimes to excess) and lots of strong language: A dog is named "F--kface," and "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," etc. are used in many scenes. Plus, characters smoke cigarettes and weed. The love scenes are milder by comparison; they tend to focus on couples kissing in bed. Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde co-star in this story about persevering through the messiness and ugliness of life. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Even the excellent cast can't save this well-intentioned but maudlin tearjerker from feeling like an emotionally manipulative melodrama. Unlike This Is Us, where the sentimentality works because audiences have multiple episodes in which to emotionally invest in the show's characters and storylines, Life Itself feels mawkish. The tears may come, but they won't be earned, because the story is rushed and patched together in a way that devalues each of the "chapters" and characters. Fogelman is a talented TV storyteller, and there are pieces of the movie's story that by themselves would have made interesting features, but all together the movie isn't nearly as powerful as it clearly aims to be.
Instead, all of the film's capable, award-winning actors (particularly the ones playing the Spaniards, who handle their characters with a subtlety lacking in some of the American roles) are left with an uneven, at times downright disturbing and violent film. (Even if tweens and middle schoolers watch This Is Us at home, this movie isn't for younger viewers.) The dialogue is clunky and so overwrought that it feels dishonest. What pot-smoking, beer-chugging frat boy has the emotional maturity to tell his best friend what Will tells Abby as an undergraduate? Fogelman's brand of speechifying works just fine when Sterling K. Brown or Milo Ventimiglia is waxing poetic or proclaiming their love on TV, but it feels over-the-top here. Given how well-loved Fogelman's series is, fans may be disappointed that the movie doesn't live up to their expectations, but that Pearson magic just isn't here.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.