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Parents' Guide to

Life Itself (2014)

By S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Documentary captures film critic Ebert's zest for living.

Movie R 2014 116 minutes
Life Itself (2014) Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 1 parent review

age 14+

A movie about a personal hero

As an aspiring movie critic, there's really only one man to look up to. Roger Ebert paved the way for virtually everyone to come. This movie examines his life, how much he loved the movies, maybe the not so desirable aspects of the man, his hilariously interesting frenemyship with Gene Siskel, and perhaps most heartbreakingly, his last few months with his cancerous affliction. Those scenes are the hardest to bear witness to, not because of their graphic nature but seeing a man having to suffer who was in alright condition prior. It's also very inspiring to see a man so unafraid of death. Though it shows some scenes from a trashy movie Ebert wrote in the 60s, catch the version on CNN if your aspiring writer kids want to see it. It's a great documentary and I hopes it wins an Oscar like everyone's saying it will!

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1 ):
Kids say (2 ):

Life Itself is a beautiful documentary that befits a man as complex, intelligent, and compassionate as Roger Ebert. As with many biographical films, viewers get to know the writer from childhood on -- born in a small Illinois town, dad was an electrician, mom was a homemaker, always wanted to be a journalist. But that's just the beginning; as the film goes on, Ebert's portrait (which he narrates himself in spots) gains texture not just through the many interviews with friends who share memories of a man with an deep yearning to experience as much as he could -- and demanded the same from the art he reviewed -- but time with Ebert himself, who remains eloquent even when cancer has made it impossible for him to speak.

No matter the impact of his disease, he still had his words on paper, and with these, Ebert never stopped sharing his wisdom. Some people might have sunk into bitterness and despair, but Life Itself shows that Ebert remained optimistic and joyful. He had no qualms about showing his face, even after surgery left him visibly disfigured. It's easy for a film to show what a man accomplished. Life Itself excels by showing us who the man really was. As Ebert himself says in a clip from the first few minutes of the film, "The movies are like a machine that generates empathy." Life Itself, as part of that machinery, succeeds.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: July 4, 2014
  • On DVD or streaming: February 17, 2015
  • Cast: Roger Ebert
  • Director: Steve James
  • Studio: Magnolia Pictures
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Run time: 116 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: brief sexual images/nudity and language
  • Last updated: April 14, 2023

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