Before you yell at me and call me a pirate and ask me how I saw this film so early you should look up this thing called Vudu... Anyway, Life Itself is a documentary about Roger Ebert, a man who could safely be described as one of the most, if not the most famous film critic of all time. The film is based on Ebert's autobiography of the same title, and it tells his life story as told through narrated voice over and a series of interviews from Ebert's friends and family. Of course, there's no interviews from Ebert himself due to his unfortunate passing last year, but there is, however, a fair amount of footage that was filmed of him in the later stages of his life, which I'm sure will arouse tears from many audience members.
Never before have I seen a documentary so powerful, captivating and emotional. I wouldn't consider myself an avid documentary watcher, but I definitely wouldn't say that I don't watch documentaries either. Of course I do, that's why I review them. Life Itself is one of the best documentaries I've seen in my life, and this is coming from someone who's not necessarily the biggest Roger Ebert fan. He wasn't a person that I grew up with or that I checked in on every day. I'm not going to blame the fact that I'm Australian, but it's probably because I'm Australian. He wasn't in any way the reason why I wanted to review films. I've read a few of his reviews, but only because of his passing. They're great, don't get me wrong, but I feel it's too late to really appreciate him like others do. Fortunately, I still love this documentary.
Despite not being an Ebert fanboy, Life Itself perfectly capsulated his life and his career in a way that made me care. It got me invested in a topic, or life, I had only a mild interest in. In fact, it got me more interested in the topics than documentaries that are discussing topics I was interested in prior to watching the film. Just look at this year's Doc of the Dead. I'm way more interested in zombies than I was Roger Ebert, yet I found this film a heck of a lot more interesting.
It focusses on Ebert's life, but it's a film about so much more than that. It's about friends, film, family, cancer, love, loss and life. It's got things to say, important things, and it says them with such passion and emotion, particularly the insights from Ebert's wife, Chaz, who's discussion of her husband can get challenging to watch. But what was even more challenging to watch was the footage from Ebert in hospital, or more specifically, the scenes where he's being treated. It's graphic, real and confronting. Three words to describe a masterful documentary.
To sum up, Life Itself is a confronting, emotional and powerful documentary about the life of film critic Roger Ebert. The insight from friends and family is emotional, the topics are broad and the execution is glorious. Even as someone who's not too big an Ebert fan, this film spoke to me.
4 1/2 Stars