The Life Ahead

The legend returns
Verdict: 8/10 - The Life Ahead is a moving tearjerker anchored by a commanding performance from screen legend Sophia Loren
Release Date: 
Friday, November 13, 2020
Written by: 

Sophia Loren stars as a Holocaust survivor in Netflix's moving drama.


Legendary Italian actress Sophia Loren returns to the screen for the first time in 10 years and proves she's still got it at the age of 86.

In this Italian-language film, directed by her son Edoardo Ponti, the screen star plays Madame Rosa, an ageing Holocaust survivor and retired prostitute who is now an informal foster mom to children of other prostitutes.

As a favour to Dr Coen (Renato Carpentieri), she agrees to look after Momo (Ibrahima Gueye), a 12-year-old Muslim orphan originally from Senegal, even though he recently stole from her on the street.

Romain Gary’s 1975 novel The Life Before Us was first adapted into the movie Madame Rosa in 1977 and has since been made into a TV series and even a short-lived Broadway musical so The Life Before Us tells a well-known story.

The action has been switched from Paris to a seaside town in Italy and has been given a few modern updates – such as Madame Rosa's neighbour Lola, who was originally a transvestite prostitute, now being a transgender sex worker played by Abril Zamora.


The broad strokes of the story remain the same and it is fairly obvious where it’s going when Madame Rosa starts getting ill, but it doesn’t make it any less moving or interesting to watch and it is still heart-warming watching her breaking down Moma's walls and the pair becoming a little unconventional family unit.

Despite being away from the screen for 10 years, Loren certainly hasn’t gone rusty and proves why she is still a legend.

She gives a commanding performance as Madame Rosa, who suffers no fools and has a sassy attitude, and particularly impresses in scenes where Madame Rosa mentally checks out and gets confused, presumably the first signs of dementia.

She isn’t the only one who deserves attention though. Gueye does a fantastic job of transforming his character from a rebellious troublemaker and drug dealer to a caregiver.

Carpentieri, Zamora, and Babak Karimi all offer great support, particularly the latter, a carpet salesman who takes Momo on as his apprentice as a favour to Madame Rosa and teaches him to aim higher in life.

The Life Ahead may be a fairly conventional tearjerker but it is worth a watch because of Loren and Gueye’s performances and their evolving relationship, which is sure to melt hearts.

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