“The Life Ahead” is a brilliant comeback for one of the last great actresses from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Academy Award-winning Sophia Loren. She plays a Holocaust survivor and former prostitute who now takes care of other prostitutes’ children. The film follows her rocky relationship with a troubled, drug-dealing Senegalese orphan as it unravels into a real bond.
Adapted from the novel “The Life Before Us” by Romain Gary (under the pseudonym Emile Ajar), Madame Rosa reluctantly takes in Momo, the young orphan, after he steals something valuable from her. Momo tries to figure out his life ahead during his stay. Despite attempts to follow positive influences, he falls into the wrong crowd and sells weed and hash for the local drug kingpin.
Just as the pair begin to bond, their lives are flipped upside down when Madame Rosa keeps slipping into haunting memories from her time at the concentration camp Auschwitz.
With award season coming up, it would be no surprise to see this film nominated, and Loren could make history as the oldest woman nominated at 86. Emmanuelle Riva, who was nominated at the age of 85 for the 2013 French film “Armour,” currently holds the record. If Loren is nominated for the 2021 Oscars, she would also be breaking another record, the longest gap between nominations, which is currently held by Peter Fonda with a 41-year-long gap.
The film is actually directed by her own son, Edoardo Ponti. Mother and son working together is very on theme with the movie’s story of the relationship between a maternal figure and a child figure. That connection and love come through the screen loud and clear, and it is captivating to watch.
Even the young boy who played Momo, Ibrahima Gueye, was able to dig to such an emotional place, especially in those moments where Momo broke down and became vulnerable. Gueye showed talent years more mature than what would be expected from an especially young new actor.
This film is a beautiful and gripping story of two unlikely people who both have things to learn from each other. It’s one of the best films of the year, an artfully done masterpiece to add to Sophia Loren’s outstanding career. “The Life Ahead” is available to stream on Netflix.