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Parents' Guide to

The Life Ahead

By John Sooja, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Touching adaptation of teary classic has drugs, language.

Movie PG-13 2020 94 minutes
The Life Ahead Poster Image

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Featuring wonderful performances, this adaptation of a beloved classic finishes strongly despite following a quite standard narrative dramatic path. The emotional payoff of The Life Ahead hits because of the remarkable bond formed between Madame Rosa and Momo. Both could be strong role models despite their sex work and orphan-thief backgrounds, as both Momo and Rosa show great compassion for one another, make risky sacrifices for each other (Rosa taking in Momo and Momo fulfilling Rosa's last wish), and find places in their damaged hearts for each other's searching souls. There are subtler explorations of the effects of trauma here also, and Loren, Gueye, and director Edoardo Ponti handle them masterfully. The film makes a strong argument for the rehabilitative and restorative power of compassion and love.

Ponti also shoots his performers here compassionately and lovingly, which mirrors the primary theme of the film. Simply directed and shot, Ponti leans on sustained shots of faces and emotions, eager to capture any facial feature, nuance, mannerism, or particularity that might otherwise be missed with quicker cuts. This allows the performers to really sit in their acting and face their faces, if you will. Scenes become lessons in acting and in restrained and patient performance. Watching Gueye gush tears upon seeing Rosa in the hospital, Loren space out lost in some distant memory as Rosa, and Abril Zamora's Madame Lola contemplate meeting the father who abandoned her is a joy. It's a pleasure to see such time and love given to such dejected, tossed aside, and lost character types with nothing but love to give.

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