There is nothing in A Beautiful Life that we haven’t seen multiple times before. It tells a worn-out story filled with the same tried-and-true ways of making a film. If filmmaking was just about fitting parts into already existing templates and manufacturing them with a garnish of novelty that makes them look different in small ways, then A Beautiful Life would be a perfect film. It has nothing original to say or show through its aesthetics, and it’s so difficult to believe it was made in 2023. It starts from nowhere, messes around in the middle, and leaves you with a feeling of incompleteness by the end. The screenplay seems to have been written after reading one of the ‘how to write a script’ books available in abundance, leaving room for absolutely no transfer of emotions between the maker and the viewer. The primary aim of cinema is to communicate something rather than just stand on a structure that merely resembles a film but has neither the heart nor the head of one. And so, A Beautiful Life just ends up running towards the black hole of cliché with its eyes wide open while thinking that it has instead created a sensation with its storytelling.
This condition of being ignorant or naive to the fundamentals of cinema and its underlying motivation and just jumping in to make a film that pleases the audience is hugely disappointing. By strictly playing to the gallery, adding the same spices to a new dish, and expecting it to create a new delicacy, you are wasting your effort. Director Mehdi Avaz and screenwriter Stefan Jaworski narrate the story of a fisherman named Elliot, who has a natural talent for music. While playing the guitar for his friend one day at a performance, he is spotted by a music manager, Suzanne, who recognizes his spark and wants him to work with her along with her daughter, who is a producer. The tale sets off and takes the well-known route, leaving no trace of surprise or emotional connection. We always stay at a certain distance from all the characters, for there is no exploration of their decisions and its impact on their lives. Everything is just told through dialogue, and it is expected to strike a chord with us.
Doing the bare minimum, Avaz seems to be asking us to make what we can of whatever he is showing; he invites us to feel whatever he wants us to feel but never creates the necessary moments for us to actually connect. The writing is flatter than the irrational beliefs of some people about the shape of the earth. After a point, it starts to feel more like a timelapse into the lives of the characters, as nothing seems to be adding up to anything. It speaks of the problems in the writing when the characters in the film start to look and feel more like characters than real people, and you start to identify more with their behavior in terms of the narrative than with their own lives. Elliot, along with others, totally seems to be puppeteered by the director. They never exist on their own but make choices to appease the plot. Characters reacting not to each other but to the whims of the story. It is a strange phenomenon!
Anyone with even a basic understanding of how stories work would be able to see through the film’s structure, which is so bare. Even the songs that are composed by Christopher, the actor who plays Elliot, lose their charm and are just old wine in a new bottle. When a film fails, everything about it fails, and there is nothing to point out and say that it worked. Even the title of the film seems to have been chosen just as a marketing strategy to attract people’s attention, for it is not closely resonant with what the film wants to become and ends up becoming. The thematic journey doesn’t point toward anything that nearly resembles what the title says, nor does it hold any narrative importance. It just feels like a general term that can be the title of any other film as well, even a film that has nothing to do with life itself. The visuals never add anything that is not already underlined by the scenes, as there are no underlying layers that need to be brought to life. The editing style is straightforward and simplistic, making it exactly like any other film on Netflix.
Speaking of which, it should be noted how many films on Netflix look and feel exactly the same. There is a dream, some romance, and some music, coupled with extremely pretentious conflicts and ups and downs. Mix it all up with a few good-looking faces and some stylized cinematography, and boom; you are done. Under the garb of originality, most of them are just gimmicky and unoriginal, giving way to a lousy experience as a whole. You cannot make a film with just the intention of making it relatable and hence deciding to add in all the popular elements, which will automatically make it nice. Keywords never make a film; it’s in the exploration of emotions that the story really comes out. A Beautiful Life is a disappointing film by every measure. It has no moments of charm, even though it’s filled with some decent songs. The fire that is missing from the script cannot be created either by the actors or the camera, and it is visible in all of the frames as it somehow struggles to keep up throughout its runtime. You wouldn’t miss a thing by skipping A Beautiful Life.