Neil Bahadur’s review published on Letterboxd:
Obviously, And Life Goes On is a metatextual follow-up to Where Is The Friend's Home, before becoming what was only chapter two of what is now known as the Koker trilogy. But the establishing of the three films as a trilogy, while an obvious move, distracts from how each of Kiarostami's films are either a variation of the last or a synthesis of some sort - Where Is The Friend's Home is a fiction work set around a school day, Homework is a documentary on the education system. Close-Up is step 3: a synthesis between the formal and structural techniques of Where Is The Friend's Home and Homework - a fiction work on documentary. And Life Goes On is step 4: a synthesis between Close-Up and Where Is The Friend's Home.
We can see from the very opening shot the insistance on forward movement, whether they be cars or something more natural as we see later on. And more than Close-Up even, it's a pivotal work in Kiarostami's beautiful movement from classicalism to modernism - even if the increasingly mechanical nature of his films is already implied within Where Is The Friend's Home by sheer virtue of construction, Homework is open about its desire to be nothing beyond a talking head documentary, while Close-Up virtually defies writing, letting us linger in acknowledging the wonder of cinema itself. And though it's the subject of Close-Up, And Life Goes on constantly makes the mechanism of cinema apparent - though in the complete opposite manner and very literally, since the production of Where Is The Friend's Home and its aftermath is literally the films plot. Kiarostami's reflexivity will become increasingly more sophisticated later on (really as soon as the next film) but the purpose it serves here regardless is also to play into the films subject clearly in its title. Life has moved on since the film. Life will continue to go on after the earthquake. What's nice is that Kiarostami essentially places us in the director's chair, with the main character being a stand-in for both him and the viewer, as they merely *look* at things. Natural disasters, untainted beautiful landscapes - sometimes beautiful, other times ironic, and sometimes both. And people working and moving on through all of it. And Life Goes On is nearly as difficult to write about as Close-Up, but not because it pursues ineffability as the previous work did, but rather because it feels so utterly perfect.
Kiarostami has been compared to Hitchcock before - and they are arguably the two most manipulative filmmakers ever - and And Life Goes On immediately resembles Rear Window as the first section very literally cuts between the drive and interjections through a window upon which we don't just see that "life goes on" but even moreso gifting us vignettes which allow us a glimpse into a character or a person as they move on with their individual life. Yet like Hitchcock each of these mini-vignettes, at least early on, ultimately draws us not to know a character better but rather to the unabashed pure joys of voyeurism, as these are just glimpses after all. Yet, (as though expanding from the limitation of this technique itself) Kiarostami expands this approach to the point where the drive itself is stopped as to meet characters and people, have brief conversations, get to know someone a little better, and explore how a society confronted with tragedy moves forward in microcosm. As the drive has stopped, so too has the seeming purpose of the film to find the two boys, and so apparently the metatextual element between Where Is The Friend's Home and And Life Goes On has thus been abandoned as well.
But come on, we all know that Kiarostami is much too clever for that: life moves on from a film in it's own corner of reality too, as evinced by the glimpse of the maze like hill that the boy from Where Is The Friend's Home runs across, or when the director finally finds one of the boys from that film, or when the director finds the old man from that film and it suddenly becomes unclear which layer of reality this film takes place on (obviously, the filmic one) as he begins to espout both the films theme and its reflexive purpose as well. And most beautifully, when we briefly return to the small forest and the director says hello to a baby before being called back to his car. Yet the camera remains, and the child's grandmother rocks the child. "Life goes on," from and within a film and Where Is The Friend's Home reflexively becomes a film within a film even though we never see a foot of it, we only see things that remind us of it. So naturally, the destination hardly matters. But (and unlike later Kiarostami's) the film never really places this mechanic upfront, it's just kind of *there* as with the uninterrupted continuations of peoples lives, or just the sheer beauty of wind blowing through greenery on a summer day. And while there are later films of his I prefer, it's because of this that And Life Goes On earns its profundity, which is a rare achievement in movies. It's why the film remains moving and powerful even with the sheer brutality of which the events of the Earthquake are recollected by some of the survivors. Kiarostami can avoid sentimentality and melodrama and still have his point be made and still have that be emotionally effective in tandem with that point because of the sheer perfection of how that mechanic functions throughout the film. Even if by his next film Kiarostami will focus on how even aspects of this and these interactions are manipulated (now to draw attention to the mechanism itself), surely Kiarostami could not manipulate a sunset with his means circa 1992. But the sun sets as always at the end of each day, and then it rises again - of course, because life goes on. A colleague writes "It is astounding to see how Kiarostami can do so much with, what would seem when described, to be so little." The key is not "so much" but rather "what would seem when described, to be so little." The entire point of the film is the profundity of "what would seem when described, to be so little." And it's a profundity that is both achieved and earned, because of the mechanism itself. Few films can attest to having every piece seemingly fit together so perfectly.
Frankly, And Life Goes On feels like the kind of work that comes at the end of ones career - a full artistic summation on how one views life. Eventually every act, every character entering a frame, or wind blowing through trees seems like an absolute miracle - because the film trains you to see these things in that way. The fact of the sun setting is something that is never highlighted (I'm referring to when the director drops his son off to watch the game), it's just there. But if you've been watching the film by this uncommonly generous director, you will notice that it does, and how that plays into every thread of this movie. All the pieces working, and also making pieces work - this is the beginning of Kiarostami discovering who he was as an artist.
And Life Goes On is a movie about the present, because the future doesn't yet exist, the past has existed, and only the present exists. And yet life goes on and moves forward, because life *is* to move forward.