(La vita davanti a sé) The Life
Ahead Sophia Loren. Ieri, Oggi, Domani... Sempre adorabile!
Sheila O'Malley, rogerebert.com November 13, 2020
How could you not always love Sophia Loren, even in a 'so
and so' movie? I mean.. “yesterday today and tomorrow” ... and forever. -- Giulio
If the Academy doesn’t nominate Sophia Loren for this
movie, I’m suing. The boy is really good in this movie too. -- yusufpiskin
Loren has made it again! She's an absolute
Goddess. Concerning the movie; the characters are colorful and empathetic, and even if its plot is
simple, the cast keeps it up. Specially, Sophia Loren. Ieri, Oggi, Domani...
Sempre adorabile! There are thousands of reasons to appreciate Loren's
performance; she embodies humanity as she has always done. --Alan Reyes
Sofia Villani Scicolone first strolled into the
movies via a 1950 beauty pageant. She was 15 years old. Re-named "Sophia Loren" by her husband Carlo Ponti, she got
attention immediately, for her beauty, but also for her talent.
She was a glamorous woman who played
decidedly unglamorous roles, her onscreen personality being earthy, high-tempered, no-nonsense.
She came from a very real place, she did not seem like she was
manufactured in a Hollywood lab. Loren had to fight to get many of the roles she
wanted, roles she knew was right for. She fought to play the mother in Vittorio De Sica's "Two Women" (1960), and her instincts
were clearly correct. She was showered with awards for that performance, including the Best Actress
Her career at this point has spanned 70 years, putting her in very rarified company.
Loren hasn't appeared in anything in over
a decade. She remains such a huge star that her appearance in
anything is always an event. So, too, with Netflix's "The Life Ahead,"
directed by her son, Edoardo Ponti.
The fear going into the film was that it would not be worthy of her. Thankfully, it is.
Based on Romain
Gary's 1975 book The Life Before Us (already adapted once
before, in 1977's "Madame Rosa," starring Simone Signoret), "The Life Ahead"
is about an elderly Holocaust survivor and ex-prostitute, who takes in
the children of local sex workers, either temporarily or permanently. She operates an unofficial juvenile
way-station, for children whose mothers have either abandoned them or can't take care of them.
In a society that all too often lets people slip through the cracks, Madame
Rosa is the glue of her particular neighborhood. As she nears the end of her life, one child
under her care helps her through that difficult process. It is an unlikely friendship, to say the least.
Loren inhabits the role of Madame Rosa as if it was written
for her. (You can see why Ponti
wanted to remake it for her). Bringing to the table her lifetime of experience, talent, and sense of truth,
Loren's Madame Rosa is
alternately warm and cranky, imperious and funny, strong and fragile. Madame Rosa
has led a hard life, and it shows in her face, her actions, but she is still capable of acts of great
generosity. Madame Rosa often goes into fugue states when the trauma of her past gets to be too
much. She retreats from the everyday world. In those moments, Loren seems truly broken, staring into
space, unreachable. When feeling comes up in her, it's so sharp and immediate it seems to surprise
even her. This is not a character who "indulges" in her emotions. She has survived by not
Into Madame Rosa's apartment
comes Momo, short for Mohamed, and he is played by 14-year-
old Ibrahima Gueye. Momo is a
Muslim from Senegal, although he has no memory of his home country. His father killed his mother
when she refused to prostitute herself anymore. Momo is a tough kid with a hard shell, who makes
money selling drugs.Madame Rosa is nobody's fool. She wheedles a local
store-owner (played by Babak Karimi, familiar from his work in Asghar Farhadi's "A Separation" and "The Salesman"), to give
Momo a job a couple days a week. Madame Rosa's best friend is Lola, a sex worker played by
wonderful trans actress Abril Zamora. Lola was, as Momo informs us in voiceover, once a middleweight
boxing champion, and so everyone "respected her ... because if they didn't she'd bash their faces."
The relationship created by Loren and Zamora
is beautiful. You can feel the history between these two women. This small community of people notice
Madame Rosa starting to deteriorate. But it is to MomoMadame Rosa turns when she needs it. "You're a
little shit," she says to him, "but I know you keep your word."
Young Gueye is one of those children who wouldn't know
how to be phony if you paid him. When he wise-cracks, when he gets aggressive, when he bursts into
tears out of nowhere ... it all comes from an organic place within him. He looks at Sophia
Loren, takes in all she gives him—pain and fear and need—and reflects it back to her. He's
wonderful and Loren is wonderful with him.
Loren occupies a similar position as Catherine Deneuve: an icon in her heyday, known for her beauty, her
style ... a "movie goddess" who could have been abandoned by an industry that doesn't want to see its
movie goddesses grow old. Deneuve continues to work in interesting challenging
projects, more so than Loren does. Burt Reynolds was in a similar position. What do we do with sex symbols "past their prime"? Sadly, our culture doesn't make room
for what could be an extremely interesting conversation. "The Last Movie Star" paid tribute to Burt
Reynolds' career, but also appreciated what he brought to the table as an old man. "The Life
Ahead" operates the same way, allowing
Loren similar grace and space. Watching her in “The Life
Ahead," shuffling through her apartment in a loose kimono, long grey hair
flowing behind her, still elegant, still beautiful, but now old and frail, is to allow us the space to
contemplate our memories of her in the past, while leaving plenty of room to celebrate who she is now.