November 6, 2020
The 86-year-old, star of the Netflix drama The Life Ahead, looks back at her own life, from the squalor of wartime Naples to the glamour of international fame
The CGI lioness that materialises at intervals in the Netflix drama The Life Ahead is a sad and sorry-looking thing. It has a glossy gold coat and a twitching gold tail and brings a dose of magic realism to an otherwise gritty 21st-century tale. But it is too skimpy and tame. It lacks exoticism and menace. It pales when compared to the movie’s other big beast.
Ostensibly, The Life Ahead spins the story of Madame Rosa, a fiery samaritan and former sex worker on the coast of southern Italy. But in essence, at heart, it is a luxurious showcase for the 86-year-old Sophia Loren, who strides through the action with her grey hair untethered and her hoop earrings swinging; a Mother Courage for the ages, bruised but unbowed. Directed by her son, Edoardo Ponti, the film mines the actor’s back catalogue, riffs off her colourful life story and stirs memories of the combative characters she played in her heyday, in films such as Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1963) and Marriage Italian Style (1964). “Things don’t change too much,” she says. “The body changes. The mind does not.”