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"A life spent at the movies gets the cinematic epitaph it richly deserves in “Life Itself,” documentarian Steve James’ meticulous and intensely emotional portrait of the late Roger Ebert."
- Scott Foundas, Variety
"I found it profound. The film includes this quote: “We are who we are: where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We’re kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people. And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy.” Which is amazing itself. I mean that’s what writing and reading is all about and what art is all about. It kind of speaks to his wisdom and generosity, but the whole film is a portrait of this guy, this man, Roger Ebert, and the wisdom he’s been able to achieve. It has this amazing sensibility that’s kind of marked out by that one quote, which is that some parts of our life are given, whether it’s your talents, your preferences, your proclivities, maybe even your ideological proclivities, your body, your parents, your upbringing, your health, and you can’t do anything about that other than make sense of it and accept it. And then some parts of our lives are chosen. In his case, whether to drink or whether not to drink. How to practice his citizenship and his craft. How to treat other people. Life Itself is kind of about negotiating those two stark realities of human existence. I’ve never seen that expressed so effectively in a piece of art."
- Rick Perlstein, The Dissolve
"Steve James' engrossing documentary about Roger Ebert celebrates the late film critic's life and work but also presents an unflinching view of his medical difficulties."
- Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
"A big-hearted, absorbing documentary about a writer who kept on writing until very near the end. Anyone who cared about Roger Ebert will find it necessary viewing."
- Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
"In a lifetime at the movies, Roger Ebert consumed a lot of empathy, so there’s something almost luminous about seeing him take that empathy and shine it back on himself."
- Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
"Having a behind-the-scenes look at the truth of Roger's remark that Chaz's love was "like a wind pushing me back from the grave" genuinely brought tears to my eyes."
- Kenneth Turan, LA Times
"James should be high-fived every day of his life for telling the real story of Roger Ebert."
- Chase Whale, Indiewire
"Ebert was more than just a famous critic; he elevated the medium through his criticism. Life Itself is the tribute he deserves."
- Casey Newton, The Verge
"I had never been as keen to see a film as I was to see Life Itself, and I have never been so immensely moved by one as I was by it."
- Scott Jordan Harris, The Telegraph
"All I’ll say that is when one of your lifelong heroes passes away, I hope they get a documentary tribute as entertaining, touching, and satisfying as Life Itself."
- Scott Weinberg, Geek Nation
"A perfect biographical documentary, possibly one of the classics, this is a lovingly and brutally honest portrait of a famous film critic in the final days of his life. I sincerely can't think of any way that it could have been better."
- Christopher Campbell, Nonfics
"This is an impressively clear-eyed and deeply moving portrait."
- Amber Wilkinson, The Telegraph
"Viewers filing out of the theater pronounced the film Oscar worthy."
- Lucas Shaw, The Wrap
"Life Itself is one of the best films at Sundance."
- Mike Ryan, Huffington Post
"Steve James' wonderful, heartbreaking "Life Itself" to give us the whole man in all his personas, some graceful, some not-so-nice... That's what makes this a great documentary rather than a very good one: James comes to his subject with respect and affection, but he understands that a documentarian's job is to assemble the paints and then allow the portrait to paint itself."
- Ty Burr, Boston Globe
"If Sundance gave an award for the most emotionally debilitating film of the festival, then Life Itself, a documentary from Hoop Dreams director Steve James about the life of Roger Ebert, would win it anew every screening... it’s the movie that’s moved and inspired me the most."
- Jada Yuan, Vulture
"Life Itself is a complete look at Ebert’s incredible life that elicits laughs, tears and gasps. Most of all, though, it drives us to one particular phrase: Two Thumbs Way Up."
- Germain Lussier, SlashFilm
"The film acts as a fascinating, loving, and ultimately heartbreaking tribute to the life and legacy of Roger Ebert. A-"
- Adam Chitwood, Collider
"When I say that Life Itself offered me a welcome opportunity to share quality time with an old friend, well, that’s only because it did. And for that, I am immensely grateful."
"How appropriate, then, that a writer who devoted much of his life to sharing his passion for cinema should have such a moving film dedicated to his memory."
- Ryan Lambie, Den of Geek
"I believe that had Ebert himself lived to see LIFE ITSELF premiere at Sundance, it would have easily gotten his thumbs up seal of approval."
- Chris Bumbray, Joblo.com
"It’s somehow fitting that our final goodbye to Roger comes through the medium that he spent so much of his life loving to tell us about: the movies."
- Shannon Nutt, High-Def Digest
“Life Itself allows us to watch Ebert go into that final shared darkness we all have to face with a light – and not a thumb – held high to guide us as one his final gift: A graceful, grateful model of how, if we’re as smart as we are lucky, we might one day die."
- James Rocchi, Film.com
"A bluntly truthful, brilliantly made, profoundly touching portrait."
- Jeff Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere
"As the full, unvarnished portrait of the people’s critic, Life Itself is surprising, touching, and unforgettable. It vaults to the rarefied air of the very best documentaries about the history of cinema; if you care deeply about the seventh art and the life’s work of Roger Ebert, you will love this film."
- Gary Suderman, The Script Lab
"No [Sundance] film seemed to touch as many attendees, however, as “Life Itself,” Steve James’s intimate look back at the career of the late film critic Roger Ebert. James previously directed the seminal Sundance documentary “Hoop Dreams,” and with a candid Ebert as his subject this time around, he creates a film that is at once hard to watch and deeply captivating."
"Does justice to the disparate seasons of a complicated man’s life, capturing Ebert’s evolution from boy dreamer to national treasure with compassion, empathy and a welcome lack of sentimentality. James has created a roaring, defiant celebration of life that doubles as a valentine to the film and newspaper world in which Ebert found his truest homes."
- Nathan Rabin, The Dissolve
"Wonderful, inspiring, sad and also charming... not only is “Life Itself” a fine remembrance of Roger Ebert, it’s also a good reminder to follow your dreams, love big and never give up."
- Don R. Lewis, Film Threat
“Life Itself is a moving tribute to one exceptional critic and, by extension, his profession, but it’s also a celebration of celebrating movies and, at its heart, a salute to any life lived fully.”
- Daniel Fienberg, HitFix.
"A truly excellent piece of work... the tangible facts of Life Itself may inspire tears, but the way in which it reminds us of Ebert’s influence is a joyful thing to consider, something worth celebrating all by itself."
- Josh Spiegel, Sound on Sight
"When you have the likes of Martin Scorsese choking up on screen, it's clear that we're seeing something remarkable captured. As a doc, the arc of the story flows well, the interviews compelling and well shot, the portrait of the man complex and engaging. It's another remarkable film from a truly remarkable filmmaker."
- Jason Gorber, Twitchfilm
"Life Itself" is not wide-eyed deification, but a clear-minded portrait of Ebert that is both funny and unflinching. It’s a great film that champions Ebert’s vision of film and writing as a means to reach other people, moreso than the simple data of his life-long tenure as a film critic. It’s a film worth seeing.
- Russ Fischer, SlashFilm