Posted Dec 08 2015

Youth - This Movie Rocks. But, As The Title Suggests, It'll Be Wasted On The Young

Dir: Paolo Sorrentino

Starring Michael Caine, Harvey Kietel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Paloma Faith

Michael Caine’s haunted face. Is there anything finer on a big screen than Michael Caine’s haunted face? Paolo Sorrentino uses his remarkable film Youth to try and convince you there isn’t.

For a film called Youth, this is very much a film about aging. Caine is an aged composer/conductor spending his time at a Swiss hotel-spa with long time friend filmmaker Kietel and frustrated daughter Weisz. All that follows is purely incidental, all that happens is a slow movement towards the end of your life. But it is done so beautifully that any mordant sense is distinctly absent. It’s not so much a celebration of life – with Caine and Kietel constantly debating how much their prostrate-challenged piss of the day yielded – as an acknowledgment of it.

It is ultimately a delicate look at character and Caine has simply never been better, expressing more with a look than a dozen pages of dialogue, despite a very strong script. With Sorrentino adding his own distinctly surreal flourishes – Caine making a symphony out of cows, Keitel confronted with every leading lady of his life, including (presumably) his mother – it’s like a low key tour de force. And one in which just about everyone comes out of it well – Weisz is her usual strong, smart as a whip self – with one stand out scene where she confronts her father genuinely moving, whilst Dano delivers his second excellent performance of the year, following his Half-Wilson in Love & Mercy. It’s only hotly tipped Best Supporting  Fonda, who shows up late, shows us all her wrinkles as she divas it up, who feels out of place here, almost overbalancing such a delicate mechanism.

But Youth survives. The power of Caine’s performance ensures that. Sorrentino has made a strangely unique movie, whose isolated hotel-bound location – beautifully shot throughout by Luca Bigazzi – can’t help at times but echo the likes of Grand Budapest Hotel and even Weisz’s other movie of the year, The Lobster. But Youth (backed by a superb score by David Lang) is its own animal. It even survives a completely bizarre cameo from Paloma Faith as her own marriage wrecking self! Weird!

Touching and difficult, beautiful and troubled, unique and wonderful. And sad - and funny -  as all hell. Caine is hotly tipped for awards glory and, whether the man wins or not, you will not see a finer performance on screen this year.


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