17th November 2020

The Legendary Sophia Loren Returns In A Noble Tearjerker

The  Life Ahead(Italian, Netflix)

Starring Sophia Loren, Ibrahima Gueye and Abril Zamora.

Directed Edoardo  Ponti

Rating: *** ½ 

 Some experiences are  forever.  For those of us who grew  up worshipping the  ground on which the  screen goddess Sophia Loren waltzed ,  her return after a hiatus  of almost ten years, is  an event akin to the  Second Coming.

Wrinkled yet  luminous, the luscious Ms Loren  lights  up every frame in  an unabashed tearjerker about  a feisty aging socialite with a  murky past  who shelters migrant street  children in Italy. 

I don’t know why so much is being made  of the fact that her son  Edoardo has directed The Life Ahead. Nepotism notwithstanding  Ms Loren  would have been foolish to decline this  role.Stately, arrogant, compassionate  and generous, her  character  Madame Rosa stands heads and shoulders above  situations created for  sentimental value  in the  unabashedly soppy screenplay which tugs so heart at  out heart-strings that we  begin to feel the pressure of being manipulated  into submission.

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The  relationship that grows between the two unlikely companions, an 80-plus Italian woman with demons haunting her from her past, and a wise 9-year old black Senegalese  boy who takes over her  life in  unexpectedly  empathetic ways, could have conveyed  more heft than the  shot of the two hands,white and black, coming together in a close-up claso.

The narrative positions Good and Bad  in a definitive almost  evangelical  tone  leaving  no room for  the  in-between.Speaking of which there is  a wonderful  transgender  character Lola played  by  Abril Zamora who is close to both Madame Rosa and her new little friend  Momo(short for Mohammed, though he  prefers  the  religion-unspecific version of his name). 

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The  bonding among these three  misfits  is  tender and  heartwarming.These are  people who deserve  only the  best that life has  to offer.This   film could only have come from a place of great  nobility and  kindness.  I am sure director Edoardo Ponti is  a wonderful humanbeing. His message of  inclusiveness and  compassion is  not be  undermined  at any cost.

 Ponti underscores  the humane element with bouts of  anger humour beauty and bewilderment. Regrettably there isn’t enough space  in the narrative for these  qualities to grow.  Cursory hugs,furtive tears  and  fleeting  empathy apart,the  director seems in a hurry to wrap up the show .Epic in spirit ,  the execution leaves the  plot and the two main characters breathless  in  the rush to the finish.  The Life Ahead should have been  at least half  an hour longer. In fact it should have been  a miniseries, so we  could have got more time with  the amazing Ms Loren. Who knows when we will meet again! As for her little co-star,  I  get the feeling we will get to see a  lot more of  Ibrahima Gueye in times to come.

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