Paolo Sorrentino’s follow-up to his acclaimed 2013 drama, The Great Beauty, surrenders its concealed charms with as much grace and delicacy as it does its abundant, overt aesthetic prettiness. It is an elegy in honour of the passing of time; of old flames and frayed memories; of approaching ends and new beginnings.
Primarily, Youth focuses on the plight of Michael Caine’s Fred, a long retired, but esteemed, composer and conductor, and also his friend Mick (played by Harvey Keitel); a film director. Both approaching eighty years of age, they witness the world around them with wry humour, quizzical asides and reluctant resignation.
Matters proceed with Fred being greeted by an emissary from Queen Elizabeth II, who places him under pressure to step out of retirement and perform one last time for Prince Phillip’s birthday. Obstinately determined not to oblige, Fred faces considerable cajoling. Meanwhile, his friend of 60-plus years, Mick, is faced with a different situation. He is determined to make one last film and is aided by a temperament packed with a zeal for life and art that shows no signs of abating. He feeds rapaciously off of the energy of his young writing partners in the hotel where they are all staying, at the foot of the Alps. Around the hotel environs, Paul Dano bumps into the two on many occasions. He is a passive observer to the unfolding scenes around him, whilst Rachel Weisz’s Lena – Fred’s daughter, no less – is fighting the turmoil of romantic upheaval.
The whole film is stunningly rendered and armed with a narrative that intermittently dishes out poignant epithets. It is with Mick’s quest to make a film that Sorrentino’s work nods most affectionately towards his late iconic compatriot, Fellini. In fact, Keitel’s pursuance and resultant experiences are positively 8½-esque. Caine, Keitel and Weisz combine to good effect throughout, but, when all is said and done, this is cinema as it should be: an assault on all of the senses, as both the eyes and the mind are generously arrested.
Youth is full of heart and hits the mark. This is cinema in the hands of a true auteur; a distinctive voice. Utterly tremendous.
Youth is in cinemas from 29th January 2016.