Life Itself (2018) parents guide

Life Itself (2018) Parent Guide

The warm-hearted trailer seems completely unrelated to this chaotic, tedious, depressing movie.

Overall D

Olivia Wilde and Oscar Isaac star in this romantic comedy drama. One random moment starts a chain of events that brings them together. Love and life follow in this sprawling story of a family that spans continents and generations.

Release date September 21, 2018

Violence D
Sexual Content C
Profanity D
Substance Use D

Why is Life Itself (2018) rated R? The MPAA rated Life Itself (2018) R for language including sexual references, some violent images and brief drug use

Parent Movie Review

Director Dan Fogelman has performed an incredible magic trick with Life Itself: this movie somehow feels about four times longer than its almost two hour run time. It’s broken up into “chapters”, each introduced with its own title screen, each focusing on a different character or relationship. Unfortunately, the chapters are paced in such a way that they feel like separate movies. If you zone out for any amount of time, it’s easy to forget that you’re still in the same picture. This is a real problem in the second half, which is almost entirely in Spanish with English subtitles. This part of the story takes place in Spain, which provides a rationale for the change in language, but it is jarringly different from the first half.

Our adventure in unremitting boredom begins with a “film within a film”, being written by Will Dempsey (Oscar Isaac) and featuring some characteristically profane narration by Samuel L. Jackson. Dempsey is struggling with the loss of his wife, Abby (Olivia Wilde), and uses alcohol and prescription medication to cope. Over the course of a session with his therapist, Dempsey describes their marriage and his inability to accept her loss. The movie then jumps to the experiences of their daughter Dylan (Olivia Cooke), who seems plagued by tragedy and death.

The second half of the movie involves yet another shift, this time to Andalusia, Spain. Here we see the relationship between Javier and Isabel Gonzalez (Sergio Peris-Mencheta and Laia Costa) and their son Rodrigo (Alex Monner). Javier is a foreman at the olive grove owned by Vincent Saccione (Antonio Banderas). Javier is unwilling to have Vincent become involved with his family, and this part of the story focuses on Vincent’s attempts to win him and his family over.

These disparate stories are supposed to be linked thematically by Abby’s English literature thesis, which posits that “life itself” is the most unreliable narrator. (We are told that her thesis was rejected on the grounds that it did not qualify as literary criticism, but this flick won’t let that minor detail stop its headlong pursuit of the theme.) However, the only real connection between segments is the relationship between Rodrigo and Dylan, which, inexplicably, is never shown in any detail. I was left with the impression that the real moral of this story was “don’t stand in the middle of the street”, but maybe I missed out on some grand, earth-shaking epiphany. At one point, the narrator says: “I am not sure whose story I have been telling”, and the movie seems to feel the same way.

Life Itself is clearly unsuitable for children and teens, given its violent content, graphic sexual discussion and drug use. The excessive amounts of profanity also make this undesirable entertainment for the under-18 set. As for adults, the disjointed, confusing tedium of this film renders it a non-starter for anyone who is looking for cinematic entertainment.

Directed by Dan Fogelman. Starring Olivia Cooke, Olivia Wilde, Samuel L. Jackson. Theatrical release September 21, 2018. Updated

Watch the trailer for Life Itself (2018)

Life Itself (2018)
Rating & Content Info

Why is Life Itself (2018) rated R? Life Itself (2018) is rated R by the MPAA for language including sexual references, some violent images and brief drug use

Violence: Two women are struck and killed by buses One of the women is pregnant at the time; her baby survives. Blood is seen running in the street. A man shoots himself in the head. A teenager shoots a man in the leg. A man recounts the story of the death of his wife’s parents in a car accident, including details about the decapitation of her father. A woman slaps a man in the face. A woman has a fight with another woman: this includes punching her in the face and rubbing a sandwich in her face. A woman throws an empty glass at an unseen person.
Sexual Content: Two individuals are seen making out in a dark nightclub. A married couple are shown in bed together, fully clothed. Reference is made to a character being sexually abused as a child. Multiple references to masturbation and oral sex.
Profanity: Heavy use of extreme profanity throughout: 65 instances of coarse language, including 35 sexual expletives.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult characters are shown drinking socially, including drinking heavily at college parties. Two adult protagonists are shown with dangerous alcoholic behavior. A protagonist mixes whisky and Xanax into an espresso. Two separate scenes of adults rolling and smoking marijuana are shown. A woman is shown having a needle shot into her chest at a party. There are four incidents of people smoking cigarettes.

Page last updated

Life Itself (2018) Parents' Guide

How should we discuss death with children? How do we find healthy ways to cope with loss and bereavement? How can we help those who are grieving?

Home Video

Related home video titles:

If you want a more charming, family-friendly, multi-narrative movie, try Dog Days (2018).

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) is a much more compelling look at the evolution of individual relationships and how those relationships are affected by age. La La Land (2016) provides a much more focused look at one specific relationship as it evolves, with a catchy musical score.