'Life Itself' recounts the surprising and entertaining life of world-renowned film critic and social commentator Roger Ebert - a story that's by turns personal, wistful, funny, painful, and transcendent. The film explores the impact and legacy of Roger Ebert's life: from his Pulitzer Prize-winning film criticism and his nearly quarter-century run with Gene Siskel on their review show, to becoming one of the country's most influential cultural voices, and finally to Roger's inspiring battles with cancer and the resulting physical disability - how he literally and symbolically put a new face on the disease and continued to be a cultural force despite it. Written by
A love story about accepting mortality. Powerful and wonderful.
Above all, Life Itself is a love story. It didn't matter who it was about, it ends as a love story about dealing with mortality. You can imagine that Roger Ebert would've been proud to have been at the centre of such a heartbreaking and inspirational story. Steve James' documentary opens on Ebert's reason for loving cinema. It's about learning empathy for those sharing this journey of life with us. It's something that Life Itself certainly does for Ebert. I never knew much about him before his death. I live in England so I never even heard of him until I found the internet and then he was only a name or the picture on his old website. He was someone people loved to bring up whether to agree or disagree with his opinions. I don't think I even read one of his reviews until after he died, all I knew where his Oscar predictions and the fact he claimed Synecdoche, New York the best of the decade.
And so, Life Itself gives me my first glimpse of the brotherhood between Siskel & Ebert. Before the film becomes a love story of Ebert and his wife Chaz, it's a love story between two men. The film takes their most electric moments and it fills you with the fiery passion for cinema, something that's too easily diluted over time. The film's montages are full of a warm energy, and they're wonderful to watch, even if the storyline can be a little muddled. You wonder on why they focus on certain details at particular points, but the reasons emerge. It's difficult to see Ebert in his last months with his jaw skin drooping, but his smile beams through and it's great to see such an attitude. At its best the film is pure poetry, and the tributes at the end made me weep. Accepting death brings a wind of peace. I wish it had more structure so it could be a favourite, but it's powerful stuff as it is. Very revealing documentary that digs comfortably into a deeply personal vulnerable spot.
14 of 17 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?