Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Writer: Paolo Sorrentino
Starring: Micheal Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz and Paul Dano
Runtime: 124 Minutes
Reviewer: Laura Shoebottom
Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) is a retired composer who receives an invitation from the Queen to perform his composition ‘Simple Songs’ for Prince Phillip’s birthday. He refuses and won’t tell anyone why. Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) is his best friend and movie maker who is finishing his ‘testament’ film but can’t find an ending. Both are holidaying in the Alps in a slightly eerie hotel where most of the staff and guests say barely anything. Youth portrays wonderfully the themes of life, love and friendship and how conformity and deception have a huge influence on Fred and Mick’s lives.
The relationship between Fred and Mick is very secretive, but there is a strange mutual understanding and respect between the pair is which makes it so extraordinary. Caine and Keitel play off each other incredibly well. The dialogue is light, but with a hint of sadness occasionally seeping in which makes for some stunningly poignant scenes: when questioned about their friendship they simply answer that they only tell each other the good things.
Rachel Weisz plays Fred’s daughter and assistant Lena. It is later revealed that she is married to Mick’s son – who has left her for singer Paloma Faith. Attractive and witty with an underlying determination, Lena is a formidable challenge for Fred. Her monologue in the treatment room where she reveals her contempt for what happened during her childhood is beautiful to watch, the effect of the subtlety in her voice and body is magnificent.
Mick. of course, has his own struggles. His film is thrown into jeopardy after a surprise visit from old friend and star Brenda Morel (Jane Fonda) who tells him quite plainly she won’t do the film – with unexpected and disastrous results. Fonda shines in this role. Her on screen presence fills the room before she even starts to speak, she uses such control and fluidity in her dialogue with Keitel and the audience are left in no doubt that she is in control from start to finish.
Another shining addition to the story is young actor Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano). Jimmy is researching a role while staying at the hotel and finds himself befriending Fred and Mick. He resentful of the fact that although he has had an illustrious career, he is only remembered for one role as a robot. Dano manages to beautifully capture Jimmy’s inner struggle, passion and frustration that are all matched so closely in Fred and Mick. Although very different people the grouping together of the three couldn’t be more perfect.
The story ends with an eagerly awaited decision from Fred as to whether or not he will perform his ‘Simple Songs’ for Prince Phillip. David Lang’s beautifully intricate music score accompanies the film perfectly. It is passionate, inspiring and very cleverly heightened during the final scenes in the film. Luca Bigazzi’s clever cinematography invites the audience in only to shock them with some dramatic final scenes. Some of the scenes are a little surreal, but show the thought process and struggles of the characters in great detail. Youth is a well-rounded film with a strong cast and a touching storyline.