Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Writer: Paolo Sorrentino
Stars: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz
Michael Caine leads a stellar cast in this artful drama comedy. Caine plays Fred Ballinger, a World famous composer and conductor who has retired. Staying in a fancy Swiss hotel for a week he’s approached by people working on behalf of the Queen of England. He refuses to come out of retirement and refuses even more so to play his ‘Simple Songs’. In the hotel is his life long friend Mick, a director who is hold up in the hotel with a writing staff putting together his one final movie. Things are complicated by the fact that Mick’s son is leaving his wife, who just happens to be Fred’s Daughter. Throw in a tonne of fantastic and talented actors, with such a rich and textured drama and you have probably one of the best movies of the year so far. Now complain how we’re only 3 weeks into the year, and I will slap you with a fish across your face, I work on a rolling 12 month rotation here in GarVille.
What separates Youth from the majority of the Arthouse films that I watch, and there are many of those, is that this is accessible to people who won’t normally go and spend their hard-earned cinema money on that type of film. Michael Caine is just the best that he’s ever been, giving an apathetic yet emotional performance, and the part is so well written you just feel that he’s loving this character. We know that he’s taken jobs to sustain his lifestyle in the past but now this seems to be a role that he enjoys. Joining him is Harvey Keitel as Mick, and Rachel Weisz as Fred’s Daughter. Keitel is always great to watch in a film, even when the movie he’s in isn’t great he’s always a pleasure to watch, here he, like Caine, has the best role he’s had in years. As for Weisz I’ve now forgiven her for not appearing in The Mummy 3, she is so fragile in this film you think that she’s going to break apart at any moment. Paul Dano stars as an actor trying to shake off his most famous role by taking on the most challenging role of his life, Dano has gone up in my view this last few years and here he’s on top form again. I think that until Love and Mercy last year he was just playing almost the same type of character time and time again. Playing Brian Wilson in Love and Mercy made him something more. There are a few cameos in the film of people playing themselves, one a pop star who I don’t know that well but is a judge on the UK version of The Voice, and the other a very famous footballer who was more infamous during my childhood than for his talent.
The film is about people trying to cope with growing older, trying to reconcile with the choices that they’ve made, being human. Pointing out that because you reach a certain age, or your body reaches a certain fragility, does not me we stop living, stop experiencing life and love or that our careers stop evolving. The camera work is plain, but in being plain it fits perfectly to the style of movie we’re watching. We shouldn’t forget that this is about people. The Swiss countryside looks almost like some alien planet from a science fiction film, and stands quietly back like a good butler, who is there but never lets their presence known. The background players in the hotel add a few moments of slapstick comedy. While this is a drama first and foremost you have to admire the film makers, the scriptwriter in particular, for the subtle nature of humanity that they capture perfectly along the way of telling the stories.
There is some casual nudity, sexual scenes, and one particular moment where a main character does something that is totally unexpected. Also for some reason there is a Miss Universe character in there who just seems to be there so she can walk around naked.
This is drama of the highest order, it’s on my list of films that I’ll bore the pants off you with at the end of your normal year, and yes I put that list together through the year. The main story of Fred and his adjustment to retirement is one that we think we understand, we think we know what is going on in his world, but there are so many tiny twists and turns through the film that we really don’t know anything. It’s a pleasure to watch great actors getting great lines. I cannot urge you strongly enough to give Youth a chance and take from it what you need to.