CinemaClown’s review published on Letterboxd:
Winner of Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Life Is Beautiful (also known as La vita è bella) is a sweet, delicate & intimately crafted drama that begins as a mesmerising love story full of heart, laughs & affection, only to later change its course to paint a touching portrait of a father-son relationship with mankind's darkest period set against its backdrop.
Set in Italy, the story of Life Is Beautiful concerns Guido; a young, carefree Jewish man who courts n marries the woman he loves & lives happily with his family until Italy is occupied by German forces. With his entire family forcibly deported to a Nazi concentration camp, Guido attempts to make the best use of his wit & imagination to shield his son from the horrors of the Holocaust.
Co-written & directed by Roberto Benigni, Life Is Beautiful brims with an irresistible charm from its opening moments, introduces all its characters in a captivating manner, and turns darker as the plot progresses. The two halves of the narrative are entirely different in mood, with first-half serving as a pleasant n hilarious love story while the other half is closer to a survival tale in tone.
The screenplay adds ample depth to its characters in the first act & succeeds in making the audience invest their emotions into these characters which makes the next part all the more heartbreaking & difficult to watch. Set pieces are in tone with the depicted timeline, Humour is cleverly infused into the story, Cinematography makes expert use of warm colour tones & handles the camera very efficiently throughout its runtime.
Editing lets the story unfold at its own pace & its 116 minutes of runtime is without any dull moments while the soundtrack simply consists of beautiful, elegant & heartwarming tracks that further elevate the whole experience. Coming to the performances, every cast member chips in with vital inputs but it's Roberto Benigni once again who steals the show in the role of Guido, and his confident, charismatic & cheerful work goes a long way in making the film work.
The scenes involving Guido & his wife Dora, brilliantly played by Nicoletta Braschi, and then between Guido & his son Giosué are a delight to watch and the chemistry Benigni shares with his co-stars is pure bliss. However, the film tends to get a lot of useless flak for using comedy in a Holocaust-related drama but frankly, it isn't even about Holocaust in the first place, and that part is quite evident if one tries to view it from Guido's perspective & what he really was trying to do.
On an overall scale, Life Is Beautiful is a powerful amalgamation of love, family & sacrifice that wonderfully balances its elements of comedy, drama, romance & tragedy to illustrate the great extent a caring father goes to protect his son's innocence, and presents Roberto Benigni in complete control of his craft, both in front n behind the camera. An extremely melancholic & deeply heartfelt cinema that's equally amusing & emotional, Life Is Beautiful is one of the finest gems to come out of Italian cinema, and is highly recommended to every film lover out there.