Directed by Paolo Sorrentino
Starring Michael Caine, Rachel Weisz, Harvey Keitel, Paul Dano and Jane Fonda
YOUTH explores the lifelong bond between two friends vacationing in a luxury Swiss Alps lodge as they ponder retirement. While Fred has no plans to resume his musical career despite the urging of his loving daughter Lena, Mick is intent on finishing the screenplay for what may be his last important film for his muse Brenda. And where will inspiration lead their younger friend Jimmy, an actor grasping to make sense of his next performance?
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★★★★½ review by Eli Hayes on Letterboxd
This film won't be properly appreciated for at least forty years.
★★★★½ review by Eli Hayes on Letterboxd
Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth has the rare power to force recollections of the past as well as anticipations of the future, all the while keeping its viewer completely grounded in the present, grounded in its stunning and symphonic display of human emotion. Indeed, Sorrentino pulls the rug out from under his audience on several occasions throughout the duration of the film’s runtime, dragging them downward into the depths of dejection only to raise them back up, just as quickly, into the heights of pure laughter and joy. Watching this film is like being trapped in a game of pinball, only Sorrentino is the game player and his audience is the ball that he’s whacking in every which direction without the slightest bit of hesitation. It is clear, however, that he is doing this out of love; if anything,Youth is undoubtedly the director’s most tender and heartfelt film yet. It also might be his most accessible.
Part of this accessibility can be attributed to Sorrentino’s decision, as a primarily Italian-language director, to direct the film in English (a feat which he attempted once prior with his overlooked 2011 output, This Must Be the Place). This immediately increases the number of people that will be interested in seeing it worldwide, for the simple and obvious reason that more people speak English internationally than Italian. Nonetheless, the chief reason why I believe a more mainstream audience will be drawn to this film is because of the big-name stars attached to the cast, including Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano and Jane Fonda in an unforgettable cameo performance.
Much like a few of the other films in competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Youth is relatively light on plot and focuses more on conversations between characters, uprooted emotions and recounted memories than a concrete narrative. With that being said, the general storyline follows our protagonist, retired composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine), during his stay at a spa resort in the Alps with his daughter, Lena (Rachel Weisz), as well as his longtime best friend, illustrious film director Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel).
I must say though, that while the cast does a wonderful job realizing their characters, the true star of the film is cinematographer Luca Bigazzi, who has worked on several of Sorrentino’s previous projects including the Academy Award winning, The Great Beauty. As he did with his work on the The Great Beauty, Bigazzi seems to channel an aesthetic similar to that of Emmanuel Lubezki’s collaborations with the legendary director, Terrence Malick. Both Bigazzi and Lubezki place great emphasis on the visual composition of each scene, capturing an immense degree of detail through the movement of their ever-gliding cameras.
One particularly memorable example of Bigazzi’s skill can be found early on in the film, during a dream sequence in which Ballinger is walking down a platform surrounded by a rising body of water as it slowly begins to engulf him. There are very few cinematographers that can place me smack-dab in the center of the world they are shooting like Bigazzi and Lubezki, which is why I’m always greatly anticipating their future projects (and very rarely, if ever, do they let down).
If there is one area in which Youth falters a bit, it is in its 118 minute runtime. Just under two hours generally isn’t a self-indulgent length for a film to be, but if Youth was tightened up a bit and few unnecessary scenes were removed from the second and third acts, it could have been a masterpiece. It’s the kind of film where the audience may be enthralled one minute and checking their wristwatches the next. Nevertheless, this is an issue which can be forgiven amongst the wonderful themes surrounding art, grief, creation, wisdom and familial relationships; a few excessive minutes doesn’t take away from the fact that Youth is an enjoyable film with a varied soundtrack, gorgeous locations, spectacular visuals and a deeply philosophical screenplay.
★★★★½ review by metalmeatwad on Letterboxd
Emotions aren't overrated. Emotions are all we got.
YOUTH is a symphony of emotions, friendship, introspection, career and love. The film begins with a mesmerizing extended shot of The Retrosettes Sister Band performing a cover of “You Got the Love." From that moment on, I knew I was in for a treat. I was crying ten minutes into “Youth” and in disarray by its finale. Thank the heavens for the simple songs and plentiful laughs mixed in between. Youth is a cinematic knockout! It makes you realize how beautiful and precious life is, and how easily the best moments can be forgotten. Bravo, Paolo Sorrentino!
Sorrentino is a maestro at conducting your emotions. With great dexterity, he conveys miraculous care, respect and admiration for his audience. Sorrentino knows exactly how to cheer you up, whether it be with humor, a spontaneous music video, or a profound reflection on life. This auteurist piece emotionally innovates through strong visual artistry and aesthetic intelligence. The textured screenplay is also one of my favorites of this decade. It s sincerely poetic, throughly tender, and deeply felt.
The performances of Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, and Jane Fonda (scene-stealing with her big blonde wig and all) are STELLAR and carry great emotional depth. I’d like to give a special note to Paul Dano, playing a younger Johnny Depp-type, in one of the best roles of his blossoming career. Dano and the wonderful Rachel Weisz, sadly, will both be overlooked due to their brilliant supporting counterparts. Youth is honestly one of the most tender and personal films I've seen in my life. I can't remember the last time I've been so deeply touched by cinema in a movie theater.
Just-For-Laughs: You can almost pretend YOUTH is really about Steven Spielberg and John Williams vacationing together at a celebrity health spa in the Swiss Alps w/ Johnny Depp.
★★★½ review by Mike D'Angelo on Letterboxd
A.V. Club review. Sorrentino's rhythmic approach to filmmaking continues to set him apart from virtually everyone else in contemporary world cinema, and his penchant for anecdotal nuttiness always tickles me, at least to some degree.
★★★★ review by TajLV on Letterboxd
"We are all extras. All we have is emotions." ~ Mick Boyle
I felt a bit numb as this film ended. It's a powerful drain on the emotions. Writer-director Paolo Sorrentino takes us through end-of-life journeys with aged filmmaker Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) and retired conductor-composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine), both close to 80 years old, as they holiday at a Swiss resort. Mick and Fred are more than decades-long friends. They chased after the same girls in their youth, maintained a bond throughout their successful careers, and their children married each other, Lena Ballinger (Rachel Weisz) to Julian Boyle (Ed Stoppard).
But summer at the spa in Switzerland is nowhere near as restful as it might be. Mick is struggling with a group of writers to complete his magnum opus for the screen. Fred is dodging requests from the Queen's Emissary (Alex Macqueen) to be knighted and conduct a command concert for the birthday of Prince Philip, and Julian has taken up with pop star Paloma Faith (herself) and looking toward divorce.
Some of the side stories here are almost as fascinating as the central plot. Resort guest Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano) is working up to a dramatic role that he hopes will redefine his career; soccer great Diego Maradona (Roly Serrano) is an obese, short-of-breath ghost of himself trying to survive day to day; Miss Universe (Madalina Diana Ghenea) comes to visit and must establish her identity beyond her physical beauty; and there's even a Buddhist Monk (Dorji Wangchuk) trying to levitate.
Add to those characters a masseuse into her body and dance (Luna Zimic Mijovic), a mountain-climbing instructor named Luca Moroder (Robert Seethaler), and diva actress Brenda Morel (Jane Fonda), and you've got the makings for a complete circus of humanity. Doubtless, that's exactly what Sorrentino had in mind, as he plays with our heartstrings while making us laugh loudly en route to that numbing finish and the Oscar-nominated Best Original Song, "Simple Song #2" by David Lang.
Sorrentino was nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes, while Fonda caught a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress. I've still got a ways to go till I reach eight decades, but I could certainly empathize with the themes of aging, youth, memory, love, loss and career that dominate this film. Once again, Sorrentino amazes. Is there anything he doesn't do wonderfully?
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