Cert: 15 Runtime: 122 mins Director: Paolo Sorrentino Cast: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Paul Dano, Rachel Weisz and Jane Fonda
You say that emotions are overrated. But that’s bullshit. Emotions are all we’ve got
Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty impressed the hell out of me previously. Now with his second English language film we get to witness Youth. It has received high praise in it’s reviews and allegedly one of Michael Caine’s finest performances. There are always issues with foreign directors making English films as there stature isn’t really known in the English culture. So what it Youth about? Septuagenarian best friends Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) and Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) are on vacation in the Swiss Alps. Fred is an accomplished, but now retired, music composer, while Mick is a director, still planning his last great movie. Fred is flattered when the Queen’s emissary asks him to perform his popular piece “Simple Songs” at Prince Philip’s birthday concert, but turns the offer down. Mick, meanwhile, becomes disheartened when his regular collaborator, ageing diva Brenda Morel (Jane Fonda), turns the movie down. Dejected and depressed, the two reflect on their lives and admit that they see little in their futures.
Youth is the kind of movie that some may dismiss as “artsy”, but I call engaging and insightful. The wide variety of interesting minor characters, combined with the big developments in the lives of the major characters make for a unusual storytelling , but it’s a plot that holds the audience’s attention and pays off with some very surprising moments. Along the way, we’re treated to a couple realistic and beautifully shot dream sequences and plenty of great scenery, courtesy of the Swiss Alps. Not to mention a look at other kinds of beauty, owing to the fact that this movie takes place in a resort – slash – spa, with traditional European sensibilities. Rachel Weisz fits the role, but she does not stand out next to Michael Caine, whose performance is marvellously down-to-earth and quirky at the same time. Although his character is retired, the love for music still runs through his veins, so for the little candy wrappers he constantly uses to give his relatively boring existence some meaning. Also, Roly Serrano as the overweight but world-famous Diego Maradona, and Paloma Faith as herself, are worth mentioning. It is nonetheless the appearance of Miss Universe (Madalina Ghenea) that makes the two old men’s heart beat faster and makes them feel young again.
The amazing soundtrack serves to contrast the elder and the younger generation. Classical orchestras and bouncing beats alternate, and that is exactly what Sorrentino aims for. The film does not merely want different generations to oppose one another, but it also wants to show the possibility for past and future to intertwine and how easily the divide between young and old is crossed.Youth is a well-directed and technically flawless film. One should definitely pay attention to the marvelous mise-en-scène. Nonetheless, when it comes to the narrative plot, Sorrentino pushes it too far and makes the end rather conform to Hollywood formula. The final part of the film has too many twists, causing it to miss its shot when it comes to conveying a proper lesson in life. Cut those last 20 minutes and the contrast between fortune and misfortune, or past and future would have been in perfect balance.After all that, what we’re left with is an eloquent meditation on youth, an earnest celebration of maturity and a subtle challenge to never let go of your passions. Youth can’t be held forever, but the joys of the film Youth can last quite a while.