Youth, directed by Paolo Sorrentino, is a film filled with such life and also such tragedy. Sorrentino has a way of filling his films with characters and imagery that just immediately standouts and catches the eye. Some elements of the film do slightly lose their way and slow the film down, but this is a film that, in way, is impossible to not focus fully on. So let’s get the review on the go, and let the good and the bad of it be seen.
The story in ‘Youth’ follows Fred Ballinger, a retired orchestra conductor – played by Michael Caine – who while on holiday with his best friend, Mick Boyle – played by Harvey Keitel – is invited to come and play some of his music for Queen Elizabeth II. The film is also an exploration of the journey of life and the surreal-ness of it all. Stories and memories of times now gone, heartache and struggle of times right now – Youth goes on a journey with people who have lived very different lives and who now live in a very different world.
‘Youth’ is a film that makes sure that at least one of your senses is always engaged. Your eyes are continuously treated to imagery that is both tranquil and unusual, while at the same time you get to look upon the beautiful, sprawling vistas of Switzerland. Cinematographer Luca Bigazzi and director Paolo Sorrentino, present life in the film in such captivating ways, and what was always refreshing about it, was how it would illicit so many different responses. Shock, happiness, sadness, allure – ‘Youth’ was always treating me to scenes that would grab onto and then hold my attention.
While the film is peacocking with its visuals, it is also delighting with its sounds. Music plays a big part in the film, and it dominates so many of the scenes in the film. Whether it is some emotionally luxurious orchestral music, or simply the main character creating something rhythmic with coo-coo clocks; Youth is a film that is always inside your ear. What is also interesting about how sound is used in the film is how it will sometimes be the catalyst for a new scene. Sorrentino will have his scenes play out at the pace he wants, but when it is time to transition, he would do so by having the next scene burst into existence with sound that immediately perks you up – it’s almost like a subtle startle; one that lets you know you’re moving on.
Taking away everything else; Youth presents two very noticeable elements that always keep you engaged with the film. Your eyes and your ears are constantly gifted with new and wonderful experiences; if for nothing else, Youth kept me glued to it in that way.
But of course there is more to Youth and it’s certainly worth talking about. At the head of the film are Michael Caine and his character, Fred Ballinger. As you’d expect, Caine is charming and likeable in the role. He conveys sadness in a way that doesn’t feel obvious, and he also brings levity to things in a way that just endears you to him. There is nothing too complicated to understand with his character; this is a man whose best days are behind him and now it is the memories of those good times that spur him on.
Helping to spur on those memories is his best friend Mike Boyle (Harvey Keitel). There is a believability to the two’s friendship, and when they’re bickering with one another or reminiscing about lost loves etc. It all comes off as a friendship that has existed for a long time. Harvey Keitel does miss the mark sometimes; the emotion he exudes feels forced or a little disingenuous, which is a shame because other times he nails it.
Michael Caine’s character also has a meaningful relationship with his daughter, Lena Ballinger – played by Rachel Weisz. There is one scene in particular where she delivers a monologue that is full of such honesty and feeling, that you almost don’t realise it until you’re suddenly in the middle of it.
‘Youth’ is filled with characters who demand your attention. They do the unexpected, they do something endearing or they just live out the simple banality of life (we can’t all be noticeable) and it’s a constant joy to watch them exist. The only thing that massively lets it down is a deeply unnecessary appearance by pop singer, Paloma Faith. She for some reason appears in the film and even has a bizarre music video-esque moment. It completely kills the mood of the film while it’s happening. The only positive that can be taken from it is that it doesn’t last very long, nor does she appear in the film for more than a minute or two. Still, why it happened is beyond me.
‘Youth’ is one of those films that just stands out as something different. It’s not different in a way that is immediately noticeable but there is something that just subtly suggests you’re watching a film that wants to handle its content a little less conventionally. There were moments where I thought I had sussed out where the film was heading, only to be completely side-swiped – I like that. The film may not immediately work for you, but once the credits have rolled and the music has stopped, I think something from it, however small, will rest in the back of your mind and grow.
I’m definitely going to recommend ‘Youth’. This is a film that is easy to watch and even easier to enjoy. It’s that simple.
So what are your thoughts (if any) on this film or my review? I’d love to hear them in the comments down below. If you’d like to keep up-to-date on my other ramblings, feel free to either follow this blog directly or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. As always, thank you so much for taking the time to read this, it’s always appreciated. Have a great week and I hope you enjoy some good cinema.