The central message of this complex, confusing, multi-character, multi-generational melodrama is based on a character’s undergraduate literary thesis: that life itself is the ultimate unreliable narrator. Written and directed by Dan Fogelman, the creator of Emmy nominated TV series, This is Us, Life Itself is less about life and more about carefully plotted deaths. Tragedy occurs on an unimaginable scale: suicide, terminal illness, numerous accidental road deaths and child molestation — all within a saga where chance events connect strangers across generations and continents.
Structurally divided into five parts, the central focus is young New York couple, Will (Oscar Isaac) and Abbey (Olivia Wilde) and their daughter, Dylan (Olivia Cooke). Suffice to say, traumatic loss occurs on multiple levels and then, suddenly, the meandering story moves to Spain. Here, another family unit faces difficult challenges and more unfortunate events unfold. But once Rodrigo (Alex Monner), the son, moves to study at NYU, it transpires that one incident links him with another character in an unexpected, albeit rather sentimental, way.
The strong cast, which includes Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas and Mandy Patinkin do their best but are wasted on a weak script and muddled plot. Fogelman should stick to saccharine TV.