Dan Fogelman is the writer behind the hit Emmy-winning TV series This is Us. He knows how to push emotional buttons, and his latest drama, Life Itself (a TIFF premiere he wrote and directed) is about love and loss, with entwined stories ambitiously set across years and continents.
The film initially follows NYU graduate Abby (Olivia Wilde) and her boyfriend Will (Oscar Isaac). Will loves her deeply, but the depth of his commitment can be overwhelming. Their circle includes Annette Bening and Mandy Patinkin as parents who have their own stories to live out. And Antonio Banderas and Laia Costa do remarkable work when the action leaps to Spain. As we meet each character, we learn more about their interwoven narratives: between lovers, between children and parents, between America and Europe and even between past and present. Abby studies unreliable narrators in fiction but as she notes in one scene, "Life itself is the ultimate unreliable narrator."
Transforming what he does best on the small screen for the scale and compression of movies, Fogelman delivers a film that is bold but still has a lot of heart.
Dan Fogelman's stories have brought millions to laughter and tears, most recently with his award-winning television series, This Is Us. Simply by observing the truth of how we behave with each other, Fogelman invites us to let our guards down and feel. If there's a common theme in Fogelman's work, it's that we can't help but be connected to each other. Life Itself is his most expansive exploration yet of that potent notion.
I sat down with Dan Fogelman to discuss the film and why it was so important and personal for him to tell this story.