2020, Italy, 94 min.
Orphaned 12-year-old Momo (Ibrahima Gueye) dabbles in petty crime in a seaside Italian village, heading nowhere fast. When the boy’s temporary caretaker asks his neighbor, Madame Rosa (Sophia Loren), to take the charismatic, scheming Momo in for two months, Rosa reluctantly agrees. The Holocaust survivor and former streetwalker is the neighborhood’s mom. Her health is failing but her feistiness persists. As Rosa and others in her circle show the kid genuine affection, he reconsiders his path. The film is as predictable as the sunrise, but it’s easy to succumb to the bittersweet tone and the winning performances. Gueye is a revelation and the legendary Loren scores in her first film role in 11 years. The Life Ahead shows the influence older adults can have on youth without resorting to saccharine antics or fist-pounding life lessons. If the movie sounds familiar, there’s a reason. It’s based on the French novel, La Vie Devant Soi, and was adapted for the screen twice before—including as the 1978 Oscar winner, Madame Rosa.