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Film Review – Life

2 min read

Based on the friendship between rising star, Hollywood rebel James Dean and photographer Dennis Stock, Life chronicles the events of how two unlikely people developed a unique and interesting friendship through the streets of New York City.

In the cold, brisk winter of New York City, American photojournalist Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson) and rising star James Dean (Dane DeHaan) strike up a friendship after the former receives an assignment to photograph the actor, a now iconic photo of Dean published in a Life magazine spread.

Director Corbijn (A Most Wanted Man) perfectly casts the two lead roles with Pattinson and DeHaan; Pattinson as the interesting and passionate photographer and DeHaan as the soulful, mysterious actor. Though there is no obvious physical resemblance DeHaan shows his inner Dean through his soulful and intense portrayal. His strong and alluring performance encapsulates the late Dean’s aura, intensifying his emotional likeness to the actor. Pattinson portrays Stock as man with many insecurities, constructing a well-rounded, rough representation of the famed photographer. Together, Pattinson and DeHann’s chemistry lifts off the screen, showcasing a captivating friendship between an unlikely pair of artists.


Less of a biopic, Life interestingly focuses on Stock’s career and his climb in the photographic industry with his focused series on the young Dean, the spread with quickly became renowned for its intense and raw display of the actor’s life. One of the most elusive stars to grace Hollywood, James Dean’s life was certainly eventful. Corbijn demonstrates an insightful look into his personal life, through the lens of Stock. An entertainment component of the film was divided focus between both characters, forgoing the mainstream process of focusing on the higher, more influential personality. Life shows the intriguing friendship between both Stock and Dean, and revealing their respective trials in life.

Corbijn gives a breath of vintage feel to the film with stylish and cool shots of 1950s New York City. Along with the costumes, location and the timelessness of photography, Life generate an authentic portrayal of spirited America that was known of its exuberance. Unfortunately, Life emphasises the biographical element of the film, thereby creating a slow and lengthy atmosphere focused on exposition. This creates a staggered effect that leaves the film feeling full and exhausted, impeding the fluidity of the film and instead, positioned to a drawn-out pace.

With captivating performances by Pattinson and DeHaan, Life showcases an intriguing look into the bonds of friendship and the hardships of career.