Youth by Paolo Sorrentino

In Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth, Michael Caine plays Fred Ballinger, a retired composer holidaying at a mountain resort in the Swiss Alps. He is joined by his daughter, Lena (the inimitable Rachel Weisz), who doubles as his personal assistant and has a friend in actor Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano) and in screenwriter Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel).

Described as an ‘apathetic’, Ballinger spends his days in a kind of contemplative boredom, while he bathes, receives massages and hot-stone treatments, and enjoys spas, and evenings around the carousel-like garden stage, where each night a different cover band entertains the guests. An emissary of Queen Elizabeth implores him to come out of retirement, while a French publishing house are insisting that he write his memoirs, but he and Boyle find small pleasures only in the proper functions of their bodies, day to day.

Keitel is great as Boyle, a still-inspired man of Ballinger’s age, preparing his final work – his ‘testament’ – and surrounded almost constantly by a group of young American protégés who are helping him to write the film. These strange non-natural creative sessions have an endearing Wes Anderson quality.

Jimmy Tree, a younger and more apathetic thespian, is best known for playing a robot in a blockbuster film and wonders whether that will be his legacy – and I wonder which film raises this question for Sorrentino? Is it This Must Be the Place or the hugely successful, Oscar-winning The Great Beauty, or none of these? After all, the director is only in his 40s, and likely has many films ahead of him.

Youth links the lavish and the tranquil with ageing and inactivity. The experience is hypnotic, with dreams and journeys and soliloquies stirring his characters, sometimes even violently from their sleep. Sorrentino’s follow up to the The Great Beauty is a personal work, about art and mentorship, memory and legacy, featuring great, charming performances by all.


Jemima Bucknell is our Online Fulfilment Manager.

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Youth (DVD)

Youth (DVD)

Paolo Sorrentino

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