In 1984, the Oscar-winning actress Sophia Loren (“Two Women”) and her then-11-year-old son Edoardo Ponti starred in the TV movie “Aurora.” That little-remembered film began a lovely collaboration between the legendary actress and Ponti, Loren’s younger son by her late husband, producer Carlo Ponti.
Edoardo Ponti gave up acting and switched to directing after earning a fine arts degree in 1998 from USC in film directing in production. And he directed Loren for the first time in the 2002 drama “Between Strangers.” Mother and son both earned acclaimed for their 2014 short, “The Human Voice,” based on Jean Cocteau’s one-act 1930 play.
Their latest collaboration-and Loren’s first film since “The Human Voice”- is the Italian drama “The Life Ahead,” a contemporary adaptation of Romain Gary’s 1975 best-seller “The Life Before Us.” The still-stunning 86-year-old Loren plays a Holocaust survivor named Madame Rosa who becomes unlikely friends with a rebellious 12-year-old Senegalese immigrant by the name of Momo.
And if it sounds familiar, Gary’s novel was first adapted as “Madame Rosa,” an acclaimed 1977 French production directed Moshe Mizrahi and starring a memorable Simone Signoret as a former Jewish prostitute who runs a boarding house for the children of prostitutes including an 11-year-old Algerian boy named Momo. The film was a big hit critically and commercially in France and the U.S. and won the Oscar for best foreign language film and Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. best foreign film honors. Signoret also won the Cesar for her indelible turn. (An ill-fated musical version, “Roza,” ran for just 12 performances back in 1987.)
Netflix hopes that Oscar gold will strike twice for “The Life Ahead,” which opens in theaters next month and arrives on the streaming service on Nov. 13. And if the new trailer Netflix dropped is any indication, Loren is still a force of nature-a veritable earth foster mother-and has a formidable leading man in the young actor Ibrahima Gueye who plays Momo.
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