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View All Life, Above All News
All Critics (75)
| Top Critics (26)
| Fresh (62)
| Rotten (13)
A well-meaning but ploddingly earnest after-school special...
"Life, Above All" earns the tears it inspires. The film is about deep human emotions, evoked with sympathy and love.
Perseverance is the theme of "Life, Above All," a drama that is deeply affecting, if also overwhelmingly bleak.
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.
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.
This is a heartening story of resilience told without false uplift. It is hopeful without being mawkish, realistic but not oppressive.
Manyaka is enormously affecting as Chanda, stubborn, passionate, strong and fragile in equal measure. She is supported by a superb cast.
Mostly this is a film that seems genuine and true.
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.
Art with heart.
...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.
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.
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.
"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.
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