Starring: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Running Time: 124 mins
Youth is an Italian film about a retired orchestra conductor and a film director who reflect on their lives while on holiday in the Alps.
This really is a wonderful film. Directed beautifully by Paolo Sorrentino, and filled with stunning acting across the board, it’s an impressive piece of work, and also, rather surprisingly for a more arty film, really entertaining and funny. That said, it’s by no means a transcendent and hugely powerful experience, and despite its beauty, it often fails to really get to the core of what it’s trying to say about life.
The best part about Youth is its performances. With a star-studded ensemble featuring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano and Jane Fonda, the performances are all amazing. Often dealing with a combination of lengthy dialogue and completely silent scenes, everybody in this film manages to make their character stand out perfectly.
Michael Caine is excellent in the lead, and brilliantly captures his character’s somewhat frustrated feelings when looking back on the past, whilst remaining as exceptional and enjoyable an actor as he’s always been. Also, Paul Dano really deserves yet another shout-out for a brilliant performance as the sort of satirical take on modern actors like Shia LaBoeuf. In my view, Dano is an insanely underrated actor, and this performance confirms once again how brilliant he is, and how he definitely deserves more and more recognition.
But it’s not just the performances that are beautiful in Youth. Behind the camera, Paolo Sorrentino puts in a great show to make one of the most gorgeously shot films of recent years. With some stunning vistas and landscapes dropped in here and there, the film is often stunning to look at. However, Sorrentino also does an excellent job at giving this film a really impressive and interesting atmosphere. It’s got a bit of an eerie feel to it, but not overwhelmingly so, it’s just a brilliantly subtle move that makes this film a lot more intriguing than it would have been otherwise (which I’ll get onto in a second).
The other thing that I have to say is that this is, surprisingly, a really entertaining film. Its comedy is always both appropriate and funny, and that really made a difference to how much I cared about the story. Rather than take the more pretentious route, Youth is a wonderfully enjoyable film that taps into real human emotion instead of over-the-top high drama, and that was the main thing that kept me fully engaged in the film.
The reason I say that is because the story isn’t the best. It’s definitely interesting, and the screenplay is very well-written, but it just wasn’t ever emotionally affecting enough to be really praised. Its main theme is all about the struggle against ageing and the future, but I don’t think that it ever really managed to show off what it was trying to say. Undoubtedly, the performances reinforce that main theme brilliantly, but for this to be seen as a really great film, it would have to have been much deeper and more investing.
Overall, I’ll give Youth a 7.7. The performances are really fantastic, Sorrentino’s direction is absolutely beautiful, as is the score, soundtrack and the wonderful sense of humour that makes it such a surprisingly entertaining film too. However, its occasionally disappointing story just made it feel a little bit like too much style over substance, which meant it couldn’t ever be such a truly engrossing film.