After moving to Arezzo from the Tuscan countryside in 1939, loony romantic Guido (Benigni) meets, courts, and weds beautiful schoolteacher Dora (Braschi), just as a noxious wave of anti-Semitism is arising around them. Five years later, with their young son Giosue (Cantarini), the Jewish family is loaded onto a train bound for a concentration camp, but Guido goes to great lengths to shelter Giosue from this harsh reality.
Dismissed by some for turning the Holocaust into tasteless humor, Benigni's Oscar-winning comedy is actually a tragic, poignant story carefully swathed in a flurry of wacky gags and witty hilarity, courtesy of the talented star/director. "Life" begins as a delightfully frenetic love fable in which goofy waiter Guido charms and wins over Braschi's Dora, then turns into a spirited look at Guido's efforts to shield his son with the gift of humor and fantasy. A manic, heartfelt performance for which Benigni won a Best Actor Oscar. Though it tackles a tough subject with surprising exuberance, "Life" never feels cheap.