The First Day of My Life [Il primo giorno della mia vita] — Italian Film Festival 2023

Review by John P. Harvey.

On a particular night in Rome, four people are on the verge of irreversible decisions.  Arianna (Margherita Buy), a police officer, is haunted by the loss of her daughter; Napoleone (Valerio Mastandrea) is unable to feel the joy of life; Emilia (Sara Serriaocco) knows she will never be the champion that she always wanted to be; and Daniele (Gabriele Cristini) is caught between his parents’ (Antonio Gerardi and Lidia Vitale) underattentiveness and the unwelcome overattentiveness of three-quarters of a million social-media subscribers.

All four are about to end their lives.

At the crucial moment, though, a man (Toni Servillo) offers each of them a week in which to learn what will happen to those around them if they decide to proceed with their plans, setting the scene for a series of moving and sometimes funny scenes in which their guide takes them as invisible observers to key scenes over the week that follows: scenes that demonstrate the possibility of transcending immense difficulties by staying rather than abandoning all hope by leaving.

The man is not alone in offering second chances for reconsideration by those at the end of their rope.  Are they angels?  The man says not.  What, then?  How might such beings and their missions fit into life as we know it?

The film poses more questions than it answers; for all that, it reasonably satiates our appetites for creative kindness, for improbable plausibilities, for greater significance.  Its major fault, in my view, arises in its final minute or so, a scene that — without embodying a reversal, a twist, or a revelation — unfortunately represents the antithesis of the entire preceding tale, contradicting the film’s overarching theme.

Finale aside, the film uses a memorable trip through hypothetical time to raise our spirits and expand our personal horizons a little.  Though it won’t make you a true believer in intervention by divinities able to play with time, this fantasy-infused shared journey, shown through lovely cinematography and sensitive acting, will provoke you to think, and certainly to feel for its protagonists — and to appreciate Toni Servillo’s theatric mastery in expressing the unnamed man’s compassion for his charges.

Screening at Palace cinemas.

Liked it? Take a second to support John P. Harvey on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

Leave a Reply