Starring: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Jane Fonda, Paul Dano
Director: Paolo Sorrento
Sitting on top of a suitably miserable Mark Kozelek score, Youth follows the story of a lifelong friendship between Fred Ballinger (Caine), a retired and revered classical composer and Mick Boyle (Keitel), a seasoned film director, as they both attempt to relax at their yearly spa retreat. Ballinger’s daughter and personal assistant Lena (Weisz) is also staying with her father as he routinely beats off an emissary from the Queen attempting to get him to come out of retirement for one last time. Only Lena, movie star Jimmy Tree (Dano) and the eventual arrival of Miss Universe challenges the average spa resident age to edge below eighty.
Spending most of its time reminiscing and recalling lost memories, Youth is concerned with how we look back on life as age catches up with us; a poesy of educated recollection. The dialogue is lovely and thought-provoking, wistfully poetic in places, lightly humorous in others and it’s a joy to watch when it delivers. However, it can at times feel like a set of wonderful scenes rather than something more coherently whole; a collection of related verse.
It’s refreshing to see a relatively low(ish) budget independent film with three Oscar winners (Caine, Weisz, Fonda) and one Oscar nominee (Keitel) on its cast list, all coexisting without any apparent ego or screen-time envy. Youth relishes taking its time, at no point insisting on five second shot cutting; discussions are captured through patient slow camera panning, giving the dialogue the freedom it needs to feel natural and have space.
It’s too easy to forget how genuine and capable an actor Michael Caine is and it’s refreshing to see him letting his acting take centre stage and not hiding behind the whims of throwaway action character sidekicks. Keitel is equally impressive and genuine and Weisz revels in the intricacies of long emotional close-ups. And this is where Youth succeeds; very good actors giving very good performances with a well-crafted thoughtful script, set to a background of beautiful Swiss vistas.
There are servings of the peculiar sprinkled around too as Sorrento allows his eccentricities to bubble over, sometimes succeeding but occasionally feeling awkward and perplexing. Ballinger conducting a field of cows is quaintly charming, an overweight-era Diego Maradona pottering about the pool on an oxygen tank however is not and feels odd and misplaced. The inclusion of Paloma Faith as herself seems more like product placement than a quirky cameo.
The problem with Youth is that for all its reminiscence and poetic melancholy there isn’t really much of a story here, not enough meat on the artsy bones, and thus it too often feels somewhat flimsy and whimsical. Although Youth is an enjoyable film to sit through, once a few of the nicer quotes and the cranky scenes have slipped from your memory, there just won’t be much to remember it by.
6 / 10