Life Itself should be amazing, but it often isn’t. And that’s ok. The story is about how death follows a family through the years but also love. How death may make life seem random and without meaning but that love gives it purpose and fate.
That insight isn’t a revelatory view, and much of Life Itself may seem sentimental and over observed, but much of real life occurs in between the buts, the spaces between the joyous and tragic. Life Itself traces that arch through four generations and imposes meaning on the entire process. Tragedy and death is just what moves love (meaning, God, fate, The Force— call it what you will) to the next generation, the next breath and heartbeat.
Director Dan Fogelman (the show runner for the similarly themed television series This Is Us) knows that much of Life Itself will lend itself to complaints of manipulation to those critics who seek meaning in film but refuse to see it outside the celluloid dark. He doesn’t care. Life Itself is for the living.