Trauma & Hope
When you give up hope, good things happen. This sentence may seem trivial but when it comes to Madame Rosa and young Momo in The Life Ahead, this literally forms the crux of their relationship. Well-written and heartbreaking, The Life Ahead entwines the fortunes of our two lead characters and does so through the lens of two very different but very broken characters.
Set along a seaside in Italy, the story begins with a brief glimpse of the third act before cutting back in time and leading up to this very moment. It’s a narrative device that’s been used before many times but here it helps to hammer home the emotional gravitas of what’s happened.
Before we get there though, we’re introduced to Momo, a 12-year-old street kid, robbing unsuspecting victims and eking out a living.
As fate would have it, one of those people he robs happens to be Madame Rosa, a Holocaust survivor currently running a no-nonsense daycare business. With Momo’s carer unable to keep up with the tearaway pre-teen, it’s up to Rosa to try and break down the fortified walls encased around Momo’s heart.
While predictable, the film still packs one heck of an emotional wallop during the finale. The previous two acts work to build up both characters and play with ideas of hope and trauma.
The former is highlighted through several significant relationships that Momo has through his time during the film. From the young boy he shares a room with at the daycare to his “friends” out on the street, Momo is a tough kid and fiercely guards his beliefs.
While Momo searches for that thin sliver of hope, Sophia Loren’s deeply conflicted and multi-faceted Rosa struggles to control the demons controlling her trauma. Her journey is equally as fascinating and emotional as Momo’s, with her façade slowly chipping away to show a woman battered and broken following her time in the war.
Seeing both of these characters coming together when all hope is lost really is beautiful and it crescendos nicely into a heartbreaking and emotional final act. You can see it coming from a mile away – given the basic screenplay and story arc – but the execution is picture perfect.
The film is ultimately propped up by its two aforementioned ideals, working in tandem and showing that where one dominates, the other is not far behind.
And again that brings everything back full circle to the most important quote in the movie – when all hope is lost, good things happen. And through the hopelessness many people are feeling right now, that good thing may just be The Life Ahead.