Movie review: Writer-director of TV series, This is Us, brings on the tears in new movie Life Itself

Olivia Wilde and Oscar Isaac star in Life Itself.
Olivia Wilde and Oscar Isaac star in Life Itself.PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION



118 minutes/Opens Thursday (Dec 6)

2.5 stars

The story: Will (Oscar Isaac) and Abby Dempsey (Olivia Wilde) are happily married and expecting their first child when tragedy strikes. How will they, and their descendants, deal with the unexpected twists in their lives?

This film has Dan Fogelman's fingerprints all over it.

The writer-director, who also created American television series This Is Us (2016 to present), employs many of the same writing techniques from the show here to get those tears flowing.

Much like the hit series, this is also a multi-generational, time-hopping tear-jerker, which often turns life's smallest moments into major dramatic ones.

Fogelman understands human emotions and relationships, even if this film gets so tragic at times that it borders on the morbid and ridiculous.


In the United States where the film opened in September, media outlets panned it, saying it exploited emotions and was the year's "most depressing movie".

Although Fogelman overdoes it a little - the number of painful catastrophes the Dempseys go through seems one too many - he still delivers some genuinely sweet moments between his characters.

Told over five interlinked segments, the first story comes out the strongest, as Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde are convincing as a young couple madly in love. But are they really?

This opening segment repeatedly brings up the idea of the "unreliable narrator", as a drunk and visibly troubled Will constantly changes his story based on his fading memory.

The least successful segment is the third one, where the storyline is carried over to Spain and a whole group of new characters is introduced - all of whom you have little patience for.

There are plenty of ups and downs about the film, but Fogelman would probably say that is just a reflection of life itself.