R | 118 min | Drama
Review - Matt Mungle
**In theaters December 4th 2015**
Synopsis: A retired orchestra conductor is on holiday with his daughter and his film director best friend in the Alps when he receives an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II to perform for Prince Philip's birthday.
Review: There is something immensely special about Paolo Sorrentino's script for YOUTH. It is touching, whimsical, and engages emotions on several layers. He then takes the written word and directs it to near perfection. This is a film that has to be embraced as a whole. To dissect it or try and explain every nuisance would take away the beauty. So just open your heart and mind and let the story sweep you away.
The film centers around Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) a retired orchestra conductor vacationing at a fancy spa in the Alps. The rooms are full of famous movie makers, sports figures, and the upper crust of polite society. The people are quiet and respectful and each feels as if to make too much noise would be to spoil the serene surroundings. Fred's best friend Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) is a filmmaker there polishing his latest script and musing over life's past with Fred. The two take long walks and talk about lost love's, regrets and accomplishments. The dialogues are not superficial or trite but rather they are rich in subtle wisdom and emotional anecdotes.
Though these two are the central characters the movie is actually about us all. Whether you are young and diving full force into uncharted waters or nearing the end of your journey and looking at life in a reflective glass; there is something here to move you. Granted this film will be appreciated a tad more by older audiences due to the pacing and character arcs. Still it is not a stuffy walk down memory lane. The lacing of eccentric characters who move in and out of the story add a fanciful dance to the whimsy. It keeps you off balance just enough so that the powerful moments have a greater impact.
The supporting cast of Rachel Weisz and Paul Dano fit wonderfully in the quiet atmosphere. Weisz plays Ballinger's daughter who is having some staggering moments of her own. They have never been very close and getting her dad to engage deeply with her has always been a struggle. Fred Ballinger gets a visit from the Queen's Emissary (Alex Macqueen) to try and talk him into making a special conducting appearance for Prince Phillip's Birthday bash. The Queen has asked that Ballinger lead an orchestra and renowned soprano in one of his most famous pieces. Fred denies the request and as the movie progresses his reasons become clearer. This decision is a critical arc in the story and one that is important to his and his daughters healing.
There are moments when Sorrentino will pull back the dialogue and allow the soundtrack to conduct the scene. Music is a powerful tool and the choices used here are as moving as any word. It makes the movie seem dreamlike. As if at any moment the characters would awaken from an invigorating sleep and audience would discover that they had been peaking in at the subconscious of those on screen.
YOUTH is rated R for graphic nudity, some sexuality, and language. There is nothing gratuitous or salacious about the content. The nudity and sexuality are handled and offered in a mature fashion not unlike a fine painting. It is certainly an adult film and not for kids. Those who follow the Oscar race and love a good award season drama should certainly keep this on their radar. I give it 4 out of 5 bike rides. Paolo Sorrentino has given us a superb film.