Cultural Comparison – The Life Ahead

Bari, Apulia, Italy – Photo Credit here.

The Life Ahead is an Italian movie that is based in the port city of Bari, Apulia, Italy. It follows the story of a twelve-year-old orphan named Momo who gets taken in by the woman he robbed Madam Rosa. Madam Rosa is an elderly holocaust survivor. Momo and Madam Rosa develop a deep bond that changes both of their lives forever. 

This was an incredibly touching movie to watch. Seeing the effects being an orphan had on Momo was heartbreaking. It also was unfortunate to see how the impact of being a holocaust survivor still haunts Madam Rosa to this day.

This movie is filled with culture. On the one hand, you get to see what life is like living in a small port city on the coast of Italy; on the other, you get glimpses into what life was like during the Holocaust. The town where the movie takes place seems to be more of an industrial working town. Different than the types of shore towns I am used to in New Jersey. Bari, Puglia dates back to 1500 BC, making the structures very old and close together. The city has a unique vibe that makes it feel somewhat magical. All the buildings are on top of each other, and you can get to almost everywhere you need to go on foot. In the shore towns that I live by, all the houses are not built into the city, and everything isn’t within walking distance. 

 The two main characters have very different cultural backgrounds. Madam Rosa is an Italian woman who grew up in Italy but was taken to Auschwitz during the Holocaust. You can tell that Madam Rosa is proud of her Italian roots but that her devastating experiences haunt her. Momo is a Senegalese boy who lost his mother as a young child. Momo is proud of his African roots and lives life differently than Madam Rosa. The main difference between the two is that Madam Rosa takes pride in her looks and is very proper, where Momo has had to fight for his life and fend for himself on the streets. Madam Rosa grew up with a family, and that was very important to her. For the most part, Momo grew up by himself and had to teach himself how to survive. 

The Italian culture is truly beautiful. The sense of community is something that I wish we had more of in our area. In Italy everyone knows everyone and watching out for your neighbors is very important. The Italian culture is also extremely relaxed, which I appreciate.  Here in America, I feel like we have the hustle and grind mentality, and we are always on the go. This leads us not to be involved with our communities and interact with our neighbors, which keeps us more distant. 

Most people in the movie traveled by scooter or by boat because they were on the coast. The streets in Italy are very narrow, so it is easier to fit a scooter through the streets rather than a car. For the most part, the roads are pretty wide in America, and we are used to our massive vehicles. 

The weather in the movie was scorching, most apartments didn’t have air conditioning, so they were always sweating. The flats usually didn’t have air conditioning because of how old the buildings were. I am very grateful that most places in America have air conditioning because I couldn’t imagine living in 90-degree heat and never getting any relief. Madam Rosa and Momo lived by the water, so I am sure, like myself, they were able to get the fantastic ocean breeze. 

When it came to social cues in the movie, I noticed that the Italians respected their elders. Momo being from a different country and growing up on his own didn’t seem to care too much, but he learned that he needed to respect older people over time. Working in school and seeing how children treat adults today makes me believe that we have lost that value here in America. 

The characters for fun went to the market on Sundays together, which I love. I wish we had more local markets to walk to and get fresh vegetables and flowers. In other countries, eating fresh is a priority. I wish in America we did the same. Another thing the characters did together went out to eat a lot; Italy is known for its fantastic food. I feel like I can relate. Americans are known to love to eat, and we do enjoy going out to dinner. 

I noticed overall that the characters valued more than anything was family, whether it is by blood or not. Family is who you chose, and I feel like culturally, anyone can relate to this. My family is the most important thing to me, and without their support, I don’t know how I would make it through this crazy world. In the movie, Madam Rosa and Momo rely on each other to get them through difficult times in their life, and if they didn’t have each other, they might not have made it. 

I hope you enjoyed my cultural comparison.

Watch The Life Ahead available on Netflix.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @BPizzutilla

3 Comments Add yours

  1. whaleyl says:


    I loved reading your blog post, it was so compelling to learn more about the culture in Italy! The part where you mentioned that most people get around by using a scooter or a boat is so fascinating to me, at times I wish there were ways like that we could use to travel. I feel like most if not all of the transportation in the United States is by car, bus, or train. Your blog posted opened up my mind to a lot more about Italy and the movie you watched, The Life Ahead, seems so interesting. I will definitely be adding it to my list!


  2. islamn1 says:

    Hi Brianna,
    I learned so many new things from your blog post! Italy (specifically Venice) is a place I have always wanted to travel to. Italian culture definitely seems relaxed and chill. I like how the transportation is through a scooter in an Italian road, it reminds me of an artsy scene from a poem. All in all, it was great reading about this culture and too see how different parts of the world live! Thanks for sharing.
    – Nith

  3. staracef says:

    Hi Brianna!
    I thought the way you introduced the movie The Life Ahead and compared the culture to America was very engaging to the reader. It definitely made me think how in some aspects like love for food we are very alike to Italy. I also wanted to mention that when you pointed out how you live by a beach town and that in Italy they ride scooters often it reminded me of how many in beach towns ride bikes to nearby areas. Overall your blog post made me want to learn more about this movie and add it to my upcoming things to watch on Netflix!

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