Film Review: Life is Beautiful – 8.5/10

‘This is a simple story; but, not an easy one to tell...’

A film about the holocaust entitled Life is Beautiful feels disingenuous at best and horribly misguided at worst. But Roberto Benigni’s masterpiece isn’t about the holocaust, not really. Instead, it’s about the indomitable and indefatigable nature of human spirit. It’s about love and family and happiness. Most of all, it’s an inspirational message of hope. A film that tells us, nay demands of us, that we never give up, even in the face of great adversity…

Guido is an optimistic and magnetic Jewish waiter (Benigni) who is sent to a Nazi concentration camp so soon after finding his true love Dora (Nicoletta Braschi). Once in the camp, Guido attempts to comfort his son Giosuè by pretending that the whole thing is an elaborate game. But how long can imagination survive against the backdrop of the horrors of war?

I wasn’t familiar with Benigni or his work previous to watching Life is Beautiful and this is a shame, because both his performance, and his work behind the camera, are an utter joy to behold. The Italian polymath recalls Chaplin in his use of facial expressions and physicality to tell a story and he handles the mixture of comedy, drama and intense sadness in a way that is incredibly difficult to pull off (see also Jojo Rabbit).

While Life is Beautiful may be a little too eternally optimistic for some, there is no denying its sheer power as a life-affirming dramedy in the vein of The Shawshank Redemption. A film to inspire hope whilst still acknowledging that life has a considerable dark side.