Billy's Film Reviews.

A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!

Life Itself – 2014

life-itself-poster1The life and times of Roger Ebert, arguably the greatest film critic to grace the earth have been presented in heartfelt fashion over 120 minutes in “Life Itself”, an impassioned documentary that explores Ebert’s life and career in great detail.
From his early life to his last moments, Ebert’s life has been rocky, troublesome and challenging as well as being rewarding, accomplished and recognised.
His story is unique and fascinating for the most part, blending loss with gain, conflict with love and personal troubles with a questionably large ego – Ebert was one of a kind and a true inspiration for many film critics alike.

Set out in juxtaposed time periods; past and present (which is now of course past as well)“Life Itself” is a mix of humour, shock and poignancy. The journey that the audience are taken on is not only a deep insight into the man that Roger Ebert was, but it was also very truthful and unwavering.

life-itself02We understand Ebert’s upbringing wasn’t glamorous, and his early adolescent life, although prosperous, wasn’t all that desirable either. Alcoholism was a major element in Ebert’s early life, it came as a large surprise too.
The incredible literary talent that Ebert was is exhibited countless times over the span of the documentary, even through his technologically aided computer voice required during the last periods of his life.

We delve very deep into the high point of Ebert’s career during his extensive run with fellow critic Gene Siskel. These two were such an odd couple, they fought, they argued, they debated, they yelled, they interrupted and they insulted one another, however at the end of the day, it is obvious how close they really were.
They were said to be “Siamese twins joined at the rear end” and it is clear from the endless outtakes and behind the scenes footage of the pair in their prime that they were. One sequence in particular was very humorous and it sees the pair recording a preview snippet for the show.


The banter, the arguing and the tension that escalates makes for some brilliant viewing. Both Siskel and Ebert’s stories are ultimately tragic ones, they both lost their lives to cancer, but in reflection, the lives they led were spectacular and joyous above all else. They both found love and were family men, all the while being successful, passionate men who brought a new, refreshing and inspirational factor to film criticism.

“Life Itself” is a touching documentary that is at its core, an incredibly well crafted celebration. The fascinating life of Roger Ebert and the unparalleled influence he had on many is explored passionately and respectfully in Steve James’ enthralling production. With interviews from Martin Scorsese (the executive producer), family and friends, “Life Itself”is an excellent documentary that commemorates Ebert in all his glory.




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