Life itself cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from writer/director Dan Fogelman, Stage 6 Films and Amazon Studios is a look at the connecting we all have to LIFE ITSELF.

Will (Oscar Isaac) and Abby (Olivia Wilde) are New Yorkers who have a love that is enriched with laughter, love and the arrival of their first child. That’s what makes it all the more difficult for Will to handle Abby leaving him. Dr. Cait Morris (Annette Bening) is treating Will to help him deal with his life since leaving the hospital by talking about how they met.

Javier (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) is a worker on an olive farm who captures the attention of owner Saccione (Antonio Banderas). Taking Javier under his wing, it changes life and allows him to bring a good life to wife Isabel (Laia Costa). Raising their young son Rigo (Adrian Marrero), a trip to New York would change his world entirely.

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Rigo (Alex Monner) is thrilled to be going to college but soon discovers that his mother is not well. The young man must decide whether to give up on his dream or continue learning about the olive business to be with her.

Dylan (Olivia Cooke) is a young woman being raised by grandfather Irwin (Mandy Patinkin). As the years pass she tries to find herself in different ways much to the worry of Irwin. After a night of feeling that life has treated her a bit unfairly, Dylan meets a young man and life begins to find its center.

Finding love, understanding, life as well as the humanity to bear it all knows no bounds.

Isaac as Will almost killed me in this role. Of course I realize that writer/director Fogelman is responsible for the hit television series This is Us which also kills me so I should have expected it. That being said, Isaac in this role just knocks me around emotionally and then leaves me to deal with the aftermath. Strong, powerful and brilliant is all I can say.

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Wilde as Abby is sweet, very funny, endearing and quick. I love the relationship she has with Isaac’s character because it doesn’t feel forced but in fact seems easy. The banter these two actors shares gave me a lot to laugh about. Bening as Dr. Morris has a short role but one that goes deep inside what is troubling Will. Her concern comes through as not only genuine but thought out.

Peris-Mencheta as Javier is a quiet spirit who doesn’t believe he needs to share his story – with anyone. That is the problem with his relationships with both his wife and boss. Staying quiet when he should be speaking up is what brings him the biggest pains of his life.

Banderas as Saccione is opposite of Javier in that he is happy to share the story of his life and in great emotional detail. Discovering what is missing in his life, he is unsure how to get it without hurting those he loves.

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Costa as Isabel tries her best to make a good home for husband and son. Even when Javier closes down more and more, Isabel moves forward attempting to keep their family together. Costa is lovely, endearing and more importantly – must make a choice she never asked to make. Monner as Rigo is a young man who clearly loves his mother and the life she has given him. Now it is his time and the decisions are now one an adult must make.

Patinkin as Irwin wants what’s best for his granddaughter and when wife Linda (Jean Smart) can no longer be a part of that, he takes it one event at a time. I have to admit that Irwin is the grandfather we probably all wish we had. Cooke as Dylan is an angry young woman who hides it in the changes from year to year. Rebellious teen to uber rebellious young woman, she squashes her emotions in sarcasm and raw humor.

Other cast include Isabel Durant as Shari Dickstein, Lorenza Izzo as Elena, Jake Robinson as Henry and Samuel L. Jackson as Samuel L. Jackson.

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LIFE ITSELF brings the world a little closer together in that our paths criss-cross in both time and place. This is a theme that Fogelman seems to have found his niche in writing. This Is Us is all about life, love, understanding, misunderstanding, insecurities, family, restraint, sadness, hopes and the emotions we all struggle with. LIFE ITSELF embraces all of those issues as well.

There are no special effects, no car chases, no action sequences and no super heroes. Instead, it is the story of people who are just trying to figure out how to be good people in a world where the word ‘good’ holds different weight for everyone. The films story puts the weakness and human frailties we all have forward and let us feel it with the characters.

In the end – we’re all part of a greater story!