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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 11.06.15] Italy drama

Writer/director Paolo Sorrentino is obsessed with the concept of aging; what it feels like to get old, what it means to get old and most importantly, how old men try to stay connected to the youthful world around them. Generally speaking, stories about old guys trying to stay young don't work unless you're an old guy trying to stay young but in the case of Sorrentino, his movies exude an energy and universality that speaks to a wider audience.

A few years ago, Sorrentino employed frequent collaborator Toni Servillo to explore one man's struggle to stay relevant in The Great Beauty (review) and for Youth, he explores similar themes with the help of Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel two aging friends who are spending some time at an exclusive resort in the Alps.

Caine is a celebrated composer being courted by the Queen's staff to come out of retirement to conduct a performance of his most famous composition while Keitel is a celebrated screen writer finishing a movie script. They're both men in their twilight years who seem removed and a little out of touch with the current times. The major difference between the two men is that Keitel knows he's out of touch and is actively trying to keep himself relevant, here surrounding himself with a group of young writers who are helping him complete his script. Caine's Fred Ballinger is well aware that he's no longer in the spotlight but he's beyond caring to connect with the present, happy instead to meditate on the past and dole out his wisdom to those who ask for it and even some who don't.

Youth could well have painted itself into a little bubble where two old guys do little more than talk nostalgia but in Sorrentino's hands, it's a far richer and more complex beast that explores not only the past but the small things that make us happy and perhaps most importantly, our changing perceptions of the past as we get older. Ballinger in particular spends a lot of time talking about his life experiences with another guest, Paul Dano playing an actor preparing for his next role, and the more he shares, the clearer it becomes that the older he gets, the better he understands the effects of his decisions and there's remorse for some of his actions. There is a sense of real regret and sadness in Ballinger which made me think that people who tell themselves that they don't regret anything they've done in their lives are not being completely truthful with themselves.

I walked away from Youth with some very confused emotions that I've been working through for a few weeks. The movie is inarguably beautiful and Sorrentino has a talent for infusing his movies with small moments of absurdity that, more often than not, work and on the very basic level of entertainment, Youth is a success.

Youth also offers so much more than that and the further I get from having seen the movie, the closer I feel to its theme of living with integrity and being mindful of how our actions affect our closest friends and confidantes. Needless to say, this is another must-see from a director who seems to be a the top of his game.

Youth opens December 4.

Recommended Release: The Great Beauty

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