While the film baits the audience with subtle performances, The Life Ahead delivers a sweet story on an unlikely friendship.
This review of Netflix Italian film The Life Ahead contains no spoilers. The drama was released on the platform on November 13, 2020.
In the depths of Italy, The Life Ahead details a story of a young boy named Momo (played by Ibrahima Gueye) who has been passed through social services, and he is the embodiment of his fractured environment, holding little trust for his seniors, and has a disregard for a routine and consistently good behavior. That’s the crux of the young character that the audience is dealing with. Once his foster father requests the help of Holocaust survivor Madame Rosa (played by Sophia Loren), who runs a daycare business, we see an evolution of a relationship that feels impossible to exist.
The Life Ahead relies on the character’s patience to figure out their social situation. Momo frequently resists trusting anyone but the direction of the film has a way of communicating his problems without the need for excessive dialogue — it develops Momo’s perspective of his world slowly, from dysfunctionality to having the ability to form an emotional connection. The Italian Netflix film plays a wise move of relying on the young actor to grace the screen himself, discounting the need for adult support to drive the story — Ibrahima is well-directed in The Life Ahead. It chooses the shot placements wisely, allowing the audience to understand the world ahead of Momo — he’s a young, naive fish in a large, unforgiving ocean.
Special praise has to be handed to Sophia Lauren who plays her character to a tee — Madame Rosa is the heart of the story; an aging woman that finds resolve even after the horrors of her past. Her persistence in the story to handle Momo, despite groans of his behavior, feels oddly relatable. She’s the grandmother that every problem child requires. A tough-love type approach that is difficult to find with the right balance. Madame Rosa is compelling and intriguing — the character becomes the center point of every scene.
The one criticism that can be aimed at The Life Ahead is its habit of keeping the drama at a level playing field. There are a few scenes that require more energy, with the director opting for naturalness that overrides an injection of pace. While the film baits the audience in subtle performances, The Life Ahead instruments a sweet story on an unlikely friendship.
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.