The Life Ahead (Edoardo Ponti, 2020, Italy)

  The Life Ahead marks the return of screen legend Sophia Loren after an almost 10-year absence from the screen. She is returning in a film directed by her son Edoardo Ponti, based on the 1975 novel La vie deviant soi by Romain Gary. The original film adaptation - Madame Rosa - was a huge success upon its release in 1977, especially given the heightened Arab-Israeli conflict at the time. The book transposes the novel and film’s original French setting to Bari, the Italian port city on the Adriatic Coast.

There is a simplicity and schmaltziness to The Life Ahead that certainly makes the film feel like it is from another era. It falls into the same vein as sentimental Italian fare like Life Is Beautiful which were released by Miramax during the 1990s. While cynics may dismiss The Life Ahead, the film does have its merits. Ibrahim Gueye as our protagonist Momo is very convincing as a street kid. The film does a good job showing the appeal of the life of crime, and the joy it brings to Momo's life.

The odd couple bond that develops between Momo and Madame Rosa, the former prostitute and Holocaust survivor turned caretaker, is less convincing and feels a bit forced. It seems just as this bond is forming, it is cut short by the film’s tragic finale. Ponti treads into sentimentality especially in the film’s finale, where the music swells in an outpouring of emotion. The presence of a CGI tiger which appears to Momo throughout the film also feels like an awkward choice. The film could have benefited from a more realistic approach, and it shines the most in its neorealistic portrayal of Momo’s street life. Overall, The Life Ahead is a perfectly serviceable albeit too familiar effort, but it at least has some good performances.



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