Written and Directed by Paolo Sorrentino, Youth is only his second English language film but has already created a lot of critical acclaim. It has also seen Sir Michael Caine win Best Actor for his role as retired maestro Fred Ballinger at the 28th European Film Awards but is this film worth all the praise it has been receiving?
Set on the beautiful backdrop of the Swiss Alps, with stunning views as far as the eye will take you, the scenery will suck you in, taking you on a visually mesmeric voyage where you can submerge yourself into another world. There is no question Youth is magnificently shot, the cinematography verges on the remarkable.
Retired Maestro Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) and his best friend, Scriptwriter Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) are on holiday together at a luxury resort for the extremely wealthy and famous. The men are surrounded by the likes of an extremely overweight Diego Maradona, who hardly speaks and hobbles around leaning heavily on a walking stick. To a young actor, Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano), who is taking time out before he starts shooting his next movie, but watching the other guests with extreme diligence. Whilst the two men romanticise about their youth and the memories that seem to be fading, life around them seems to be full of their own little dramas.
Youth is shot in short story segments which all tie into one another with interludes between each act. The interludes consist of pretentious shots of old people walking around naked, posing in artful poses and so on and become just a little tiresome. It feels like Sorrentino tries too hard to appeal to a certain type of audience which certainly isn’t needed.
The main focal points of Youth see’s Fred’s daughter and assistant Lena (Rachel Weisz) struggle to cope with the fact her husband, Mick’s son, very early on leaves her to be with the woman he has been having an affair with, Pop star, Paloma Faith (played by herself). Paloma openly introduces herself as a whore and is hilarious to watch in the short amount of time she appears on screen, she also appears in a dream sequence performing her own song. When Lena discovers he left her because she just wasn’t good in bed. She vent’s her anger at her father who was always so distance when she was a child. Another comes in the form of Mick co-writing his ‘testament’ with a group of young scriptwriters on the resort. The film due to be lead by diva Brenda Morrel (Jane Fonda) but after arriving at the resort to deliver Mick some devastating news he begins to question his work which ends in horrendous circumstances.
Whilst all this is going on Fred has been approached twice by the Queen’s Emissary to perform his ‘Simply Songs’ for Prince Philip’s birthday concert and has refused both times on the grounds that he will never perform it again as no one can perform it but his senile wife, in the end after seeing the demise of his best friend and his whole world collapse around him he gives in.
Youth see’s an ensemble of exceptional acting from its perfect cast, telling the story of the constant struggle we go through in growing old, reminiscing over our past and looking to what the future holds, between life and death, betrayal and loyalty.
Youth is out in UK Cinemas 29th January.