Warm and earnest in its depiction of Alzheimer’s disease, but its lack of ambition means that Live Twice, Love Once never amounts to much.
First impressions aren’t everything, but a gratingly nonsensical title like Live Twice, Love Once (Netflix) deserves some ire all the same. Unfortunately, the film itself, a laidback and earnest Spanish dramedy about Alzheimer’s disease and an unlikely road trip doesn’t do much to reverse those early suggestions of corny sentimentality. Just good enough to be likable without ever hopping the transom into genuinely memorable territory, Vivir dos veces works as a comfortable mid-tier genre-blend that is never as funny or resonant as it could and perhaps should be.
You have to be careful with this kind of subject matter, obviously; Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease that tears strips from a person’s life, often in full view of their loved ones. Emilio (Oscar Martinez), a cranky retiree succumbing to the illness in Live Twice, Love Once, has a daughter, Julia (Inma Cuesta), who has to watch his gradual mental deterioration, which is tracked throughout the film using a baseline memory test. But there’s so much emotional resonance to be mined from the topic that it’s almost a disappointment that the film only ever becomes lightly touching. Seemingly conscious of becoming overwhelmingly morbid, its efforts to retain a feel-good streak only work to prevent examination of deeper truths and tragedies implicit in this terrible disease and the families — oftentimes, as here, dysfunctional — it ravages.
It also adheres slavishly to a three-act structure and keeps its road trip — Emilio, Julia, her husband Felipe (Nacho Lopez) and their tween daughter Blanca (Mafalda Carbonell) set out to locate the elder man’s childhood love before he forgets her — well within the speed limit. While it’s perhaps a mercy that Live Twice, Love Once never gives itself over to wrenching existential despair or flagrant emotional manipulation, its middle-of-the-road sensibilities are uninspired. A trip worth taking, perhaps, but not one you’ll relish or want to go on again.