Sophia Loren, now pushing close to 90 years old, has been mostly out of the acting game over the last decade or so. Short of a couple of parts here and there, the last *big* role she had was in 2009’s Nine. She had been far removed from her award-winning turns in the ’60s and ’70s. But that doesn’t mean her career is over, far from it, and by the looks of her latest movie she could soon enter the award discussion once again.
Netflix’s The Life Ahead stars Sophia Loren as Madame Rosa, an Italian woman who acts as something of a caretaker and motherly influence for children of prostitutes. She operates a place, akin to a halfway house where she cares for children of the street who have nowhere else to turn. She’s hard-nosed but also has heart, looking after those kids who have almost nothing.
It’s there that she meets Momo (newcomer Ibrahima Gueye), a young boy who’s been orphaned. A friend of Rosa asks her to take in and care for the boy who has nowhere else to go. From The Life Ahead trailer, what starts as a rocky relationship begins blossoming into a truly heartwarming and maybe a heartbreaking tale of love and need and life and the struggles people face as they grow old.
Sophia Loren’s character Rosa is complicated by the fact that she is succumbing to dementia and begins to rely on Momo to help her through her confusion and despair. Even two minutes’ worth of the trailer made for a touching look at the two’s chemistry, so-to-speak.
Originally scheduled for release on November 13th, Netflix bumped up the date by a week and it will now hit the platform on November 6th. This timing isn’t a coincidence. There’s clearly belief by Netflix and others that Sophia Loren could be making another Academy Award run with her performance.
Sure, from even snippets of the movie it’s easy to tell that Sophia Loren has a grasp over the character and the struggles. And it probably doesn’t hurt that we now know movies about mental illness tend to perform better at both the box office and with critics. We could be looking at a perfect alignment of factors here for The Life Ahead considering the timing, the subject matter, and what could be a triumphant return to a leading role for the iconic Italian actress.
This isn’t the first time this story has been adapted for the screen. Based on the book The Life Before Us by the French novelist Romain Gary, a film adaptation was made in 1977 titled Madame Rosa after the lead character. Then in 2010, it was adapted as a miniseries.
If she were to land on the shortlist for the Academy Award, it wouldn’t be the first time for Sophia Loren. In 1961 she took home Best Lead Actresses for her role in Two Women. That story isn’t all that dissimilar to this latest. In it, she played a mother protecting her child during World War II. She earned another nomination in 1965 for her role in Marriage Italian-Style.
An Academy Award nomination for Sophia Loren would also set a new record. Seeing as how her last nomination came 56 years ago, that would mark the longest gap between nominations for an actor or actress. The previous record of 41 years was held by Henry Fonda who was nominated in 1941 for Grapes of Wrath and then again in 1982 for On Golden Pond. Loren could be setting up to shatter that record by 15 years and it’s tough to imagine anyone coming again for it any time soon.
Are awards prognostication a bit premature for Sophia Loren right now? Probably, but this isn’t your typical year for films. With so many movies backburnered and delayed, as well as theaters operating at lower capacity, we don’t have quite the trove of flicks to choose from as we’ve had in the past. It’s logical to think a feel-good story for an icon in Hollywood would make a lot of sense for the Academy.
Regardless, The Life Ahead looks very much like it’s worth the watch and Sophia Loren could capture the screen in a way we haven’t seen from her in quite some time. Look for the movie on Netflix coming later this week.