Me and You Review

Bernardo Bertolucci returned to Cannes Film Festival last year with his first film since 2003’s The Dreamers; Me and You. The film is a relatively low-key affair, set in few locations and apart from a few scenes at the start and at the end, is pretty much a two hander between half siblings, Olivia (Tea Falco) and Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori). This may be a far cry from the 1972 Last Tango in Paris, but there is more to this heartfelt reflection than initially meets the eye.

We are introduced to Lorenzo who, for whatever reason, is a moody and angry teenager, venting his anger out against his entire world. His hormones are driving him mad and so is his mother (Sonia Bergamasco), who is concerned enough for her lonely and insular son that she sends him to a counsellor to speak through his issues and what is on his mind. A brash move perhaps, but when you son’s dinner conversation concerns being the last two people left on the planet and whether you are going to reproduce together, maybe he does need to go and speak to someone professional to try and work out where his mind really is.

When his class go on a school trip skiing, Lorenzo has managed to persuade his mother that he is happy to go along and is looking forward to hanging out with his classmates. This excites her, and for a moment, she seems to be able to relax around her son but what she doesn’t realise is that he is actually planning on returning back to their apartment block and hiding out, alone, in the basement of their complex for the week. He has absolutely no interest in others or in the opportunities, which the world has to offer him. What Lorenzo doesn’t count on is the random appearance of his half sister, Olivia, who he hasn’t seen in years. When she turns up disheveled and pissed off, he questions where she has been. She keeps what she says to a minimum and doesn’t want to interact too much with her brother (imagine family dinners with this lot!).

Whilst Olivia sweeps through the basement looking for her stuff and trying to get money from Lorenzo, it turns out she is just as angry. Taking her emotions out on Lorenzo, we learn she hates and almost tried to kill her stepmother (Lorenzo’s mother) and she doesn’t have a very good relationship with their father either. Furthermore, she has a drug addiction, more information about drugs can be found at The Recovery Place review – which she is trying to curb and hangs around with rather unsavoury characters. In the first instance she has simply returned for her stuff, but when she comes back a second time, it turns out she has no where to go, no one to look after her and so she turns to her brother for solace (even though she wouldn’t want to admit it).

Once both Lorenzo and Olivia are firmly placed in the basement, without interruption, the real chunk of the film can start and we watch the siblings as they learn about each other and their worlds. They learn first a gratitude for one another before learning that really the world isn’t out to get them, and they should live a little in reality. Me and You is a very personal and intimate film, with moments of intense emotional explosions between the two characters. They sing and dance, they eat and sleep but when Olivia’s drug addiction comes to a head, for the first time ever, Lorenzo actually seems to care about someone more than himself and wants to guard his sister.

What I particularly admire about Me and You is how Bertolucci’s filmmaking makes the audience question the relationship between the siblings; although never physically incestuous, there are moments when they get pretty close. A potent reality is revealed where they are learning about each others bodies and minds and everything they learn about each other, they can use in the real world. In terms of the look of the film, it is filled with close ups, mainly the faces of the two but also other parts of their bodies. The closeness to their faces represents the intimacy of the film and Bertolucci’s invitation to really get to know these characters. There are many subtle nuances in the ways in, which things look in Me and You that constantly remind the audience that they are on a journey with the characters.

There are moments of pure cinematic delight, which truly place Bertolucci’s tender filmmaking in the forefront of the audience’s mind. Especially when Olivia is singing to Lorenzo; the sequence when they dance together to David Bowie in Italian is serene, it’s beautiful and so heartfelt and affecting, that the rest of the world falls away and instead you are left with just these two people, like those at the very beginning of time who are learning to walk. The lighting is dim, somewhat romantic, but always creating the sense of something more.

What is particularly illuminating in Me and You is the influence of both Neo-Realism and New Wave cinema; with flourishes throughout the film harking back to very different forms of filmmaking. In the first instance, this is a very individual situation where we are concentrating just on the two characters on screen and what they are thinking, rather than anything in the outside world. Furthermore, Bertolucci appears to be channeling Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, for his final sequence, freezing on the face of Lorenzo at a point when he finally has learnt something and zooming into his face; just as Truffaut did over 50 years ago in his final shot.

There is less at stake with Me and You, than other Bertolucci movies and it won’t emotionally appeal to everyone, but nevertheless it is an important addition to his filmography, showing that after all these years he can still create these poignant and tender pictures. Me and You stars two wonderful young Italian performers, who given a further scope in a movie, could really be two to watch out for.

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