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Life, Above All (2011)



Average Rating: 6.9/10
Critic Reviews: 25
Fresh: 21 | Rotten: 4

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 1,103

My Rating

Movie Info

Just after the death of her newly-born sister, Chanda, 12 years old, learns of a rumor that spreads like wildfire through her small, dust-ridden village near Johannesburg. It destroys her family and forces her mother to flee. Sensing that the gossip stems from prejudice and superstition, Chanda leaves home and school in search of her mother and the truth. Life, Above All is an emotional and universal drama about a young girl (stunningly performed by first-time-actress Khomotso Manyaka) who


Art House & International, Drama

Dec 6, 2011


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July 14, 2011:
Critics Consensus: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II is Certified Fresh
This week at the movies, we've got the conclusion to one of the most popular cinematic franchises...


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All Critics (72) | Top Critics (25) | Fresh (59) | Rotten (13) | DVD (1)

A well-meaning but ploddingly earnest after-school special...

September 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

"Life, Above All" earns the tears it inspires. The film is about deep human emotions, evoked with sympathy and love.

September 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
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Perseverance is the theme of "Life, Above All," a drama that is deeply affecting, if also overwhelmingly bleak.

August 25, 2011 Full Review Source: Arizona Republic
Arizona Republic
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There is less in-your-face grit in Cape Town-born director Oliver Schmitz's vision for this film than there is a careful pacing of somber revelations.

August 19, 2011 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
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In such a bleak story, the redemptive ending seems rushed and unconvincing, but director Oliver Schmitz has sent us a timely dispatch from a forgotten corner of the world that is honest above all.

August 12, 2011 Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This is a heartening story of resilience told without false uplift. It is hopeful without being mawkish, realistic but not oppressive.

August 5, 2011 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A gripping African drama about a child who has to grow up too fast, who has to keep her family together and alive, and has come to terms with the AIDS stigma that her neighbors place on them.

January 11, 2013 Full Review Source: McClatchy-Tribune News Service
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Art with heart.

January 5, 2012 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

...there's an undeniable fierceness and intelligence in Manyaka's lead performance. She's far from a polished actor, but there's real steel there.

November 25, 2011 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

The location settings are more compelling than the filmmaking, but the subject matter and the effective presence of young Khomotso Manyaka perhaps make this worth seeking out for those who are sympathetic to its subject matter.

October 14, 2011 Full Review Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

"Life, Above All" is an incredibly sad movie that never relies on sentimentality, and is as clear-eyed about the story as its forthright young heroine.

October 14, 2011 Full Review Source: Capital Times (Madison, WI)
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

What makes it bearable but also beautiful and stirring is the central performance by the preteen, first-time actor Khomotso Manyaka.

September 23, 2011 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle | Comment (1)
Austin Chronicle

An imperfect attempt at addressing the continued reluctance of sub-Saharan societies to address the HIV plague in their midst.

September 16, 2011 Full Review Source: Oregonian

Life, Above All is 100 minutes of grief and courage. The film shows how South Africans failed to accept and deal with the reality of AIDS. It's a provocative and depressing plot.

September 9, 2011 Full Review Source:

Manyaka brings grace and empathy to everything Chanda does, eliciting sympathy and understanding in spite of the movie's own awkwardness.

September 7, 2011 Full Review Source: Las Vegas Weekly
Las Vegas Weekly

There are a lot of tears in Life, Above All, and they're all earned.

September 1, 2011 Full Review Source: RedEye

... more drudgery than enlightenment.

August 31, 2011 Full Review Source: Sacramento News & Review
Sacramento News & Review

Manyaka's performance is jaw dropping, entirely earning the neat little bow that the movie seems determined to put on top of her mission.

August 17, 2011 Full Review Source: Orlando Weekly
Orlando Weekly

Story about a South African girl struggling against AIDS stigma feels too rational and distant.

August 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

There are so many things I like about Life, Above All that I'm willing to forgive its minor flaws...

August 11, 2011 Full Review Source: Playback:stl

Audience Reviews for Life, Above All

"Life, Above All" hit me harder emotionally than any movie I have ever seen. Shame withers the soul, born from an unawareness of why we are who we are. Here, we watch a young girl experience the devastating effects that shame has on all the people she cares about. Nothing good comes from shame. Empathy is the answer. Encouragement is the answer. Education is the answer. What our young heroin does here is the answer.
April 20, 2012
Matthew Slaven

Super Reviewer

As young as she is, Chanda(Khomotso Manyaka) is forced to be the adult of the house when her infant sister dies. Her mother(Lerato Mvelase) is obviously emotionally distraught while her stepfather Jonah(Aubrey Poolo) finds comfort in other women and controlled substances. In fact, Chanda has to steal back the money for the funeral from him. At least, she has help from her friend Esther(Keaobaka Makanyane) while Mrs. Tafa(Harriet Lenabe), a neighbor, takes Chanda's two younger siblings(Thato Kgaladi & Mapaseka Mathebe) in to babysit during the funeral. On the other hand, her mother's family is little help at all, just sending one reluctant representative, her Aunt Lizbet(Tinah Mnumzana). In this maelstrom, Chanda even tries to attend school but is informed by her teacher that she can have a couple of days off.

With an extended introduction that has a tenuous link to the rest of the story, "Life, Above All" is an earnest and compelling coming of age movie. At the same time, it also has much to say about the sad state of current healthcare in South Africa, dominated as it is by quacks, past traditions and overwhelmed hospitals, with a special emphasis on AIDS which is treated as a shameful affliction while the true shame is how the disease's victims are treated so badly. At least, Chanda is a beacon of hope for her country's future, considering her intelligence, bravery and compassion.
January 20, 2013
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

    1. Chanda: It's not her... It's you who worked so hard.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
    1. Chanda: I'll always be you friend, you know.
    2. Chanda: Even if people say bad things about your family.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
View all quotes (2)

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Foreign Titles

  • Geliebtes Leben (DE)
  • Le secret de chanda (FR)
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