Review-Lite: Life in A Year (2021)

Jaden Smith and Cara Delevingne in Life In A Year

Its been close to eight years since Jaden Smith’s last attempt at taking on a leading role in a feature but since then he has matured with time and a major role in Baz Luhrmann’s Netflix drama The Get Down. Life In A Year, originally slated for last year instead was dumped on Amazon Prime to little fanfare by the streamer, usually a sign of an inadequate product being given to us to quench our voracious appetite for ‘content’ and not for something genuinely filling. It both pleases me and disappoints me to say that this tragic romance is both a showcase for Smith and Delevingne but one trapped in a genre that is all too often becoming a crutch for up and coming actors, one that has been sapped of all dignity in search of cheap tears. Although director Mitja Okorn’s feature avoids the major stumbling blocks it doesn’t set itself apart either.

Telling the story of Daryn (Smith), a young man under the thumb of his ambitious father Xavier (an underused but excellent Cuba Gooding Jr), pushed to study what he wants him to study despite his buried desire to become an artist, make a name for himself as a rapper in his own way. When he meets Isabelle (Delevingne), he finds himself seeking something for himself only to discover she is terminally ill, closed off to making plans for the future and unwilling to see things that could be good for her, even in the short term. It’s the usual story of people changing each other, knowing it can never last but here the looming clock hangs around Daryn and Isabelle’s necks. The occasional spurt of comedy never really lifts this love story up and while Smith and Delevingne have a chemistry that feels genuine their courtship is done through clumsy montage, never authentic moments. The closest the film comes is Isabelle teaching Daryn how to let loose by…eating a burrito?

What comes across clearest is a dedication to character behind a script that just doesn’t feel close to its material and while the ending intentionally hits quieter where other films would try to rob you of your tears, Life In A Year ultimately feels like life in six months, a story missing large chunks of an opening that never materialises leaving you wondering, who are Daryn and Isabelle outside of who they are to each other and for a film about finding yourself, that’s something that is hard to excuse.

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