YOUTH [London Film Festival]

PrintE-mail Written by Peter Turner

Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel probably thought writer/director Paolo Sorrentino was taking the piss sending them a script titled Youth. On the other hand, who could resist working with the Oscar-winning Sorrentino, especially when the long-in-the-tooth acting legends get to spend most of the shoot in a luxury Swiss spa in one of the most beautiful locations in the world. 

Caine and Keitel star as old friends Fred and Mick respectively. Fred is a retired composer, who while enjoying his vacation at the spa is visited by his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz). He is resisting coming out of retirement to conduct a concert of his greatest work for the Queen of England. Mick, on the other hand, is an active film director, desperately trying to figure out an ending for his next film with a small group of writers who have joined him at the spa. All the while, Sorrentino paints the spa as a surreal wonderland for pampered guests, including an elderly couple who never speak at dinner and a young actor (Paul Dano) who is mostly content observing everyone around him.

Youth is filled with an incredibly odd collection of characters, including pop singer Paloma Faith popping up in a cameo playing herself. Fred and Mick sometimes seem like the sanest of the bunch, even if they both mourn the loss of their earliest childhood memories and look half lustily and half utterly tragically at a Miss Universe contestant who gets her kit off to lounge around the pool. Youth takes these characters on a journey, while none of them actually go very far from the spa. It seems that while old age can be liberating in some ways, it also comes with a heavy toll.

Youth should be unerringly bleak. Two old guys facing their mortality; waiting to die after the best years of their lives are long gone. Luckily, they happen to be two old guys who are wealthy enough to take vacations in one of the most magnificent places on Earth. The spa is an incredible location. Sorrentino and his regular DOP Luca Bigazzi capture the splendour, decadence and all-round oddness in stunning images. The natural beauty of the landscape is amusingly contrasted with the strange sights within the spa; sometimes hellish as red light dominates steamy rooms full of wrinkled bodies and sometimes simply magnificent. But the beautiful compositions can be comical, as is the lightness of touch in Sorrentino’s script.

While Keitel’s Mick struggles to come up with an ending for his film, Sorrentino has his all planned out from the beginning. Youth may meander and take its time, relaxing and letting it all hang out with its eccentric assembly of characters, but Sorrentino knows exactly where he’s heading and through all the absurd splashes of humour, delivers an incredibly poignant and invigorating ending. Meanwhile, Caine and Keitel demonstrate that even without their youth, they are still more than capable of incredible things.

YOUTH / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: PAOLO SORRENTINO / STARRING: MICHAEL CAINE, HARVEY KEITEL, RACHEL WEISZ, PAUL DANO / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 29TH, 2016

Expected Rating:  8 out of 10
Actual Rating:

 


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