If you're a fan of NBC's saccharine family drama This Is Us, then Life Itself is probably already on your radar.
On the surface, the film, starring Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde, among many other famous faces, has a lot in common with the network tearjerker. Both tell multigenerational stories about love and loss, weaving together multiple families and timelines in a dizzying display of pure, unfiltered sentimentality. Most importantly, however, both have the same man at the helm: director and writer Dan Fogelman. And he wants you to know that he's not actively trying to make you cry all the time.
"The show and the movie are obviously eliciting giant emotional responses from people, but that's what I've always been interested in. What else are we doing this for than to elicit emotions from people?" he told MTV News over the phone days after the film's debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. "[It's] not just crying, but also there's a lot of laughter during this film and a lot of romance and big, romantic gestures. That's the kind of stuff that draws me to a movie."
For a taste of the film's particular kind of black humor — the story of these two families is a hell of a lot darker than that of the Pearsons — check out an exclusive clip from Life Itself below.
"If people are getting emotional from something you've worked on, it's not a trick, as much as people would sometimes like to define it as that," Fogelman said. "It's very hard to make people emotionally connect with characters on that level. It means you're doing other stuff right too, not just the sad stuff. You don't get emotional if you don't connect with something."
Ultimately, Life Itself has a lot more to offer than tears. (Though, if Jack's death made you weep on This Is Us, then you may want to grab a few tissues because the hot dad in this one doesn't fare much better. For what it's worth, the writer says he has nothing against dads.) It also boasts a soundtrack that's almost exclusively all Bob Dylan songs — the result of Dylan's 1997 album, Time Out of Mind, being Fogelman's muse while writing the screenplay. Of course, for some that might only add to the film's emotional wallop.
"I would argue that it's not just people crying all the time," Fogelman added. "But it's the narrative that's taken hold, so you kind of just have to go with it." And he is. The screenwriter gets "a lot of personalized tissue boxes" sent directly to his office.
"The movie is meant to be a reminder that you can explore this very heavy story where a family endures a lot of loss and a lot of tragedy, but that very same film is also full of love and romance and beginnings," he said. "We can't lose sight of that as a culture and fall prey to all of the darkness and the scariness and the cynicism right now."
Life Itself hits theaters September 21, 2018.