Directed by Paolo Sorrentino
Starring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Paul Dano and Rachel Weisz
Film review by Amaliah S. Marmon-Halm
Paolo Sorrentino’s critically acclaimed masterpiece, Youth, stars Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel as Fred and Mick respectively, two old friends on vacation together in an elegant hotel at the foot of the Alps. Fred, a composer and conductor, is now retired. Mick, a film director, is still working. Both of them know that their time is quickly running out, and they decide to face their future together.
Mick and Fred seem to be on two ends of a spectrum - while Mick scrambles to finish the screenplay for what he imagines will be his last important film, Fred, who gave up his musical career long ago, has no intention of returning to it. But there are a couple of important people who want, at all costs to hear his compositions and to see him conduct again – The Queen and Prince Phillip.
While Mick and Fred are the stars of the show, other characters do an amazing job to add amazing substance to the film. From the nameless escort who helps to entertain the guests, an actor called Jimmy (Paul Dano) who wants to be known for more than just one role, Miss Universe and her amazing body and mind, the silent and mysterious couple with a secret and Leda (Rachel Weisz), Fred’s daughter and personal assistant, who is engaged to Mick’s son. It’s very easy to be completely absorbed into the world this film creates.
As this story is about the joys and struggles of a retired composer and conductor, you’d expect this film to have some beautiful original music to accompany it and it doesn’t disappoint. Throughout the film, it’s hard not admire the beauty of songs like Third and Seneca and Cavatina ‘Figlia Ti Scuoti’. David Lang, who composed Mick’s signature piece Simple Song #3, which is highlighted throughout the film especially by a student learning the violin and played in full during the credits, explains why taking part in a film like Youth was so meaningful to him:
"I loved writing the music…because [as] the main character is a composer I was able to write music that gets made by Michael Caine, onscreen, right before your eyes. The music plays a huge role in the plot of the film, which meant that I could use the music to blur the lines between the character's public life, as a professional musician, and his private life, as a thoughtful man.”
And it’s not just classical pieces that heavily influence this film, but also quite a few mainstream hits. The film opens with a rather funky cover of You’ve Got The Love, and even stars UK pop starlet Paloma Faith as Leda’s fiancé’s lover and sexually-charged rendition of her hit I Just Can’t Rely On You during a dream sequence. I have to admit, that although it was interesting and entertainingly odd to watch, it did seem rather out of place with the overall tone of the film.
Overall, Youth is a beautiful and thoughtful film. The kind of film where you want and need to stay as the credits start to roll, as that is when they finally play Simple Song #3. It was a wonderful depiction of something we all fear - impending old age and the fear that our uniqueness and talent don't always go appreciated. Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel make a wonderful double act, and the way they show the joy and pain of their characters definitely left me with a lump in my throat.