Starring: Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessio Boni, Jasmine Trinca
Director: Marco Tullio Giordana
Running Time: 366 mins
The Best Of Youth (La meglio gioventù) is an Italian film about the story of two brothers over the course of four decades, from the late 1960s to the early 2000s.
Many films tell the simple story of life and the passage of time over a lifetime, but few are able to really replicate the true feelings in such a short period of time. The Best Of Youth, on the other hand, gives a brilliant and moving portrayal of the story of a lifetime, combining beautiful direction, a wonderful score, powerful emotion, excellent performances and more with a huge runtime that really allows you to feel like you’ve experienced the story of a lifetime to the fullest, with all of the many ups and downs that come with it.
So, the first thing to know about this film is that it is over 6 hours long, putting it far, far beyond the typical runtime for a Hollywood movie, and proving somewhat of a daunting prospect for anybody intending to watch. However, while it may seem absolutely massive, the time goes by in the blink of an eye, just in the way that many of us feel when we look back on our own lives, something that sums up just how relatable and moving the film’s portrayal of life really is.
Spanning four decades from the summer of 1966 all the way up to the spring of 2003, the film takes a patient and detailed approach to the typical biopic format. The story here isn’t a real one, but given that it’s based around true-life events, as well as the universally understandable nature of life and the passing of time, its structure and huge runtime are absolutely perfect in giving the most sumptuous and engrossing portrayal of a lifetime possible.
From a wider perspective, the movie immerses you in each of its time periods to an incredible extent, whether it be the characters’ carefree youth in the late 60s, the huge cultural and political changes of the 1970s, and everything beyond, the way that The Best Of Youth portrays each period is absolutely fantastic, not only thanks to brilliant production design and music to hark back to specific eras, but also because of its perspective on all the changes in society during the second half of the 20th Century, bringing all of its time periods together into one beautifully elegant story.
Looking deeper, the most touching part of the movie is without a doubt the relationship between the two brothers at the centre of the story. With a wonderful first act that demonstrates the bond of family, the film develops in riveting fashion, and although the two may not always be together, as is very often the case in real life, the bond and connection that lies between them is always there, proving to be the film’s most heartfelt and moving element, and one that plays an integral role through the many ups and downs of their lives.
Of course, the way the film immerses you in the aforementioned time periods also allows you to become further and further engrossed in the lives of the two brothers, Matteo and Nicola. The first act that follows their youth is a beautiful and nostalgic piece that starts the film off in wonderful fashion, and as you think back to it on occasion over the film’s 6 hours, it becomes more and more of a beautiful memory, deepened by the events that follow, and coming across just like your own memories from when you were younger.
That’s something that happens on a consistent basis right the way through here, and thanks to the wonderfully patient pacing and elegant atmosphere throughout, The Best Of Youth is a film that gives you a lot of time to reflect on the passage of time and the importance of memories, as we see important people in life move on and go their separate ways, but always remaining a strong fixture in the memory.
It’s a story that’s incredibly moving and affecting to watch throughout, and although there are of course parts of the film that don’t always match the most powerful moments, as far as epic, 6 hour films go, it’s really quite amazing just how well time flows in The Best Of Youth, genuinely passing in the blink of an eye.
Finally, a quick word on the performances here, which are excellent throughout. Luigi Lo Cascio and Alessio Boni are fantastic as brothers Nicola and Matteo, giving performances that are both likable and thoroughly entertaining, as well as endearing to the extent that you really come to know the lead characters like you know yourself, which is exactly what’s needed to really engross you in the film’s wonderful story.
Meanwhile, a whole range of supporting players including Jasmine Trinca, Sonia Bergamasco and Maya Sansa prove an integral part of the story’s portrayal of the passage of time, as each play an important role in the brothers’ lives at particular times, and while they may fade away as time goes on, their presence is still felt right up to the present, with a collection of striking and memorable performances that stand out just as strongly as the two leading men, giving the film a greater, more rounded sense that makes it all the more enthralling at every moment.
On the whole, I loved The Best Of Youth. It’s a long film on paper, but just like a lifetime, it actually goes by in the blink of an eye, and thanks to beautifully elegant directing throughout, as well as patient pacing and some wonderful music, the film has a powerfully nostalgic quality, taking you on the journey of a lifetime, and allowing you to pause and reflect on numerous occasions at everything that has happened as time has passed.
With likable and enthralling characters portrayed with some excellent performances, The Best Of Youth is a movie that somehow brings together numerous time periods and 6 hours of film into one splendid and sumptuous piece, flowing so beautifully from beginning to end, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.2 overall.