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"THE LIFE AHEAD"
(2020) (Sophia Loren, Ibrahima Gueye) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: An eighty-something former hooker ends up caring for a 12-year-old orphan who earlier robbed her.
PLOT:

Rosa (SOPHIA LOREN) is an eighty-something Holocaust survivor and former hooker of many decades who now cares for the kids of working hookers, such as young Babu (SIMONE SURICO) who belongs to her downstairs trans neighbor, Lola (ABRIL ZAMORA), and older Iosif (IOSIF DIEGO PIRVU) whose mother has apparently abandoned him.

Her newest charge is 12-year-old Momo (IBRAHIMA GUEYE) who came from Senegal to Italy when he was young and then ended up orphaned and under the guardian care of Rosa's physician, Dr. Coen (RENATO CARPENTIERI). He isn't comfortable in that role and asks if Rosa can care for Momo, something that doesn't sit well with her what with the boy having previously robbed her. Nevertheless and agreeing to do so for a short-term paid period, she reluctantly agrees and she and Momo initially clash.

Unaware that the boy is dealing drugs for Ruspa (MASSIMILIANO ROSSI), Rosa arranges a job for Momo working for merchant Mr. Hamil (BABAK KARIMI) who tries to instill some wisdom into the boy. With Momo warming to both Iosif and Rosa, who occasionally has bouts of PTSD from her time in Auschwitz, the boy ends up caring for the older woman as much as she does for him.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

It's funny how time changes one's view of things from the past. For instance, back when I was twenty-three, I watched Danny Glover play a middle-aged detective in 1987's "Lethal Weapon" who, after dealing with what's accompanied Mel Gibson's wild card cop, says in an exasperated voice, "I'm too old for this sh*t." Looking back at that today, I'm somewhat shocked to see that Glover was only 41 at the time.

In "The Life Ahead," Sophia Loren -- yes, that Sophia Loren -- utters the exact same line of dialogue, but it's believable now and will be decades from now as the legendary actress and icon is -- gird your loins those who were young men in the fifties and sixties -- someone who's lapped the sun 86 times now.

And it's a credible comment for the character who's presumably around the same age and has been through a lot in her life, with the plot developments in this film from writer/director Edoardo Ponti and co-writer Ugo Chiti (who've adapted Romaine Gary's novel "The Life Before Us") only adding to her lifelong experience of things not going as planned.

In this winning, if predictable and familiar drama, she plays Madame Rosa, a woman who survived the Holocaust as a child and then many decades as a "streetwalker" and all that brings to the table...and bed. Now she runs an unsanctioned mini daycare of sorts for children of working hookers, with her current "clients" including a boy, Iosif (Iosif Diego Pirvu), whose mother has seemingly abandoned him and the younger Babu (Simone Surico), whose trans mother (Abril Zamora) works the streets.

Now thrown into the mix is 12-year-old Momo (Ibrahima Gueye) who Rosa's physician (Renato Carpentieri) thinks would be better off in her hands than his. She wants no part of the now orphaned boy who came to Italy as a child from Senegal, not just because of the added stress of adding another kid -- especially at her "too old for this" age -- but also because the newcomer only just recently robbed her on the street of two large candlesticks.

After some pleading on the part of the doc, along with guaranteed payments for what he promises will just be a short-term arrangement, Rosa gives in and immediately clashes with Momo, as does Iosif.

In hopes of tempering that, she gets the kid a job of sorts working for a small businessman (Babak Karimi), unaware that the kid already makes a good living selling pot and hash for the local drug kingpin (Massimiliano Rossi). But as things often play out in the movies -- not to mention real-life -- the boy begins to drop his tough kid exterior, and some interpersonal warming occurs, especially when Momo begins to realize Rosa had a tough childhood that still occasionally haunts her to this day.

Again, we've seen this sort of story before. But the themes of the effects and after-effects of childhood trauma, along with the performances from Loren -- who more than still has it -- and Gueye -- who holds his own opposite the long-time screen veteran despite this being his big-screen debut -- and the chemistry between their characters makes this a winning offering. So much so, that I don't have any need to repeat Mr. Glover or Ms. Loren's notable lines of dialogue. "The Life Ahead" rates as a 6 out of 10.




Reviewed November 14, 2020 / Posted November 20, 2020


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