‘The Life You Wanted’ Netflix Review: Italian Mini-Series Is Way Too Soapy


Netflix is like a steak that looks succulent but feels rubbery when you bite into it. No, I do appreciate the many things we get to see on the platform. It’s provided global reach like no other, but, as it goes with big companies, once they get too big, they occasionally start to lose the plot. This is something that’s true for most OTT platforms, but specifically with Netflix, there’s a disparity in the content on the platform. This does not mean that dodgy content shouldn’t be available, and this has nothing to do with budget or who is in the films or shows; it’s more specifically about quality checks within each product itself. The Life You Wanted is a genius idea because it could offer so many moral questions and deliver an overall impactful experience. However, this particular series fails to impress despite its feisty leading cast, specifically because it becomes a tone-deaf soap by the end. It’s not the story that I question at all; it’s just the delivery that made me completely lose interest. 

The Life You Wanted tells the story of transwoman Gloria, whose life is upended when an old friend named Marina shows up unannounced. Already, you think this is super exciting; it’s going to be a hell of a ride, and occasionally, it does feel that way, but then we get guns and murder, which I really didn’t find the need for. Maybe it’s a personal choice, and maybe it’s something you might enjoy. It’s like watching the Italian “Grey’s Anatomy,” but not medical. I suppose I’m being quite harsh, but I’m just so tired of getting mediocre content when I’m excited to see something from a different part of the world that promises originality. That is the only reason for my sour tone. The show is occasionally comedic, and there are interesting interactions between Gloria and one of Marina’s children. There are a lot of questions that would easily be considered rude if posed by adults, but coming from an innocent child’s perspective, it comes across more as curiosity rather than bitterness. I will admit there are some questionable parts to the show, but for the most part, it’s quite a respectful representation. 

With all that said, I would still recommend this show because it is fascinating to see a transwoman pushing boundaries as a leading lady in a gender-stereotyped genre. That’s the only thing that makes The Life You Wanted worth a watch, in my opinion. Gloria is an incredible character; there’s so much to unpack there, and I was deeply invested in the exploration of how she became a successful independent woman and, of course, the many internal questions she has regarding parenthood. But the show focuses on many of the main characters simultaneously, and since it’s a limited series, it becomes a hotchpotch of soapy mess. In all honesty, I had no interest in the sea of characters we were hit with because it seems they’re all there simply to boost Gloria. 

Vittoria Schisano is a true soap queen. She kills it with her over-the-top dramatics, even if sometimes the content isn’t very deserving. Actress Pina Turco has a tenderness to her that is perfect for Marina. She’s subtle and endearing, bringing life to a character who could easily be misunderstood. Both of these actresses do an incredible job, and they have great chemistry as well. Giuseppe Zeno is decent as Sergio; there isn’t much for him to do except add a little spice to both Marina and Gloria’s lives. He is quite entertaining as a jealous man worried about losing his son. The show lingers over a lot of themes, as do most soaps. Of course, we’ve got Gloria’s big dilemma, the struggles of parenthood, jealousy, betrayal, masculinity, trauma, death, and grief, and so many more ideas that simply dip their toes in the massive pool that is The Life You Wanted.

I will admit I like the title of the show, and it does justice to the plot, though I’m not sure it works the other way around. Now, my critique of the show specifically regards the drama and the presentation, and that’s it. I have a harrowing sense that many will hate this show simply because of their bias and narrow-mindedness, and that would be rather unfair. The show certainly deserves attention for what it’s achieved, though it’s rather sad to admit that in 2024. But hey, progress is progress. I have watched a couple of other Italian series before, but this one is completely different because of its soapy nature, and it makes more sense to make comparisons to American shows. Visually, we get to see some beautiful Italian landscapes, and some of the houses in this show are incredibly luxurious. 

If you plan on watching this with an English dub, I’d suggest just skipping the show because the dub is honestly terrible and completely removes you from the dramatic tone of the original show. Give this one a go if you’re interested in learning some Italian and getting a new perspective on parenthood. The show makers have made a genuine attempt at giving us something different, and despite its lack of originality, it’ll still work for those who love the soapiest of soaps. This is the first time I’ve seen a leading trans character. We’ve all seen them in supporting roles, but to lead a show is really a big deal, and I’m hoping to see more representation soon enough. At the end of the day, The Life You Wanted is impressive for its new perspective, but it’s tedious for its old-school presentation. I’d give The Life You Wanted 2.5 stars for its courage and new perspective. If you’re not into melodrama, though, certainly skip this one. 

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
When not tending to her fashion small business, Ruchika or Ru spends the rest of her time enjoying some cinema and TV all by herself. She's got a penchant for all things Korean and lives in drama world for the most part.

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