Blu-Ray Review: Defending Your Life

Daniel and Julie at dinner

As humans, we spend a disproportionate amount of time contemplating our own mortality. Sometimes at the expense of actually ‘living’. This inquisitiveness often centres on what happens after we depart this mortal coil. Is that it or is there something else? Life after death. Reincarnation. Heaven and Hell. Indeed, the concept of an eternal life has driven religious observation and conformity across the Christian world for centuries. A man’s actions are weighed up in Defending Your Life.  

Daniel Miller (Albert Brooks) is looking forward to going for a nice drive on his 39th birthday. His enjoyment is ended abruptly after crashing head-first into a bus. On awaking, the advertising executive finds himself transported to Judgement City. A holding area, akin to purgatory, where those who have recently died await assessment on their worthiness. Whether they get sent back to Earth to start all over again or move on to the next stage. Whilst he waits, Daniel gets to enjoy a lifestyle similar to an all-you-can-eat holiday resort.

Defending Your Life is an extremely clever romantic comedy drama which considers what are the most valuable things in life. Whilst the trial scenes are interesting and amusing, it’s the chemistry between Daniel and Julia (Meryl Streep) which makes Brook’s film such an enjoyable watch. The premise is played out with stylish flair, creating a world which is both recognisable and believable. Defending Your Life is a surprisingly thoughtful portrait of a man coming to terms with his mortality.

Special features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, approved by director Albert Brooks, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New conversation between Brooks and filmmaker Robert Weide
  • New interview with theologian and critic Donna Bowman about Brooks’s vision of the afterlife
  • New program featuring excerpts from interviews conducted in 1991 with Brooks and actors Lee Grant and Rip Torn
  • Trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by filmmaker Ari Aster

New cover based on an original theatrical poster

Defending Your Life is released on Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection on 29 March.

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