A Felliniesque fantasia on life, love and art, Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth (A-) is an answer to cinephile prayer. There will be many who dismiss this Swiss Alps resort set comedy-drama as pretentious drivel or avoid the film altogether for fear of glacial pace; but those seeking an appropriately contemplative requiem on the choices made in the sunset of life will treasure the movie’s nontraditional narrative structure, formalist art direction and unconventional approach to character development. Giving late career-best performances as an aging composer, filmmaker and actress, respectively, Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and Jane Fonda (in a potent extended cameo) are a master class trio bearing wisdom and fortitude. They’re also really funny in their wry honesty. Rachel Weisz and Paul Dano are both strong as generational counterpoints. David Lang’s music, especially the work he created for Caine’s fictional composer, is sheer bliss. Sorrentino captures a grotesquerie of fascinating people against gorgeous backdrops in conversations that comprise a protracted art house aria. Like the film’s spas, green pastures and alpine wilderness, the film leaves room for characters to breathe and discover one another in harmony. Some may argue there’s very little plot, and they’d be pretty much right. But the film is impeccably perceptive in peeling back the layers of humanity and stripping its characters bare of the familiar. The wit and wordplay devised by an Italian writer/director is stunningly universal; and despite its older stars, this autumnal film beats with a youthful heart.
Related article: Fellow friend and critic Aaron West writes about Paolo Sorrentino’s Oscar-winning 2013 film The Great Beauty in this review on Criterion Blues.
Among many of the film’s great qualities is its exquisite music including this original work: