REVIEW: Life Above All

24 07 2011

It’s entirely possible to agree with a movie’s message but not like the movie itself.  Case in point, “Life Above All.”  A South African export, the film tells the story of a young girl’s struggle to keep her family together in the face of her young sister’s death and mother’s diagnosis of AIDS, knowing that the prejudices of her village would tear them apart if she fails.  It’s a journey of courage, but director Oliver Schmitz find countless ways to devalue it for us by surrounding her journey with average, boring filmmaking.

Had it moved at a quicker pace, not spent so much time on expository details, introduced the characters in a more coherent manner, or put some emotion into the first two acts, the movie could have been a tour de force.  Although the AIDS pandemic has begun to die down in the United States, it is still ravaging an Africa where myths about the medical condition still abound.  The present day setting of “Life Above All” makes the community’s attitudes, which resemble ’80s televangelists who claimed AIDS was a plague from God, all the more frightening.  However, Schmitz never gives the movie the searing universality it needs, instead concentrating too much on the minutiae of South African society.

But alas, I was given so little reason to care that I don’t think the movie deserves my speculation on its could have beens.  The story is utterly lacking in the pathos it needs to convey the power of the narrative, and by the end, the worthiness of the effort to read the entire movie in subtitles was dubious.  While I can see the value in the protagonist’s crusade for normalcy amidst crisis and the expose of misplaced South African views of AIDS, I sat through the duration of “Life Above All” feeling incredibly nonplussed – and I think impassioned and inspired was what Schmitz was aiming for.  C+ / 



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