Youth Review
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As award season continues, the steady stream of award hopefuls making their way to theaters becomes more like a downpour. And while a handful of movies seem to get all of the buzz, others—like director Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth—tend to end up lost in the year’s award season shuffle.

Youth stars Michael Caine as Fred Ballinger, a retired composer who’s vacationing in the Swiss Alps with his daughter/assistant, Lena (Rachel Weisz), and his best friend, director Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel). Mick is working with a team of writers to complete the final scene of the film that he considers his masterpiece. But when Queen Elizabeth’s emissary comes to ask Fred to conduct a concert for Prince Philip’s birthday, he refuses. Instead, he spends his days getting massages and talking to fellow guests about old age and fading memories.

Youth is a rather traditional award season release—the kind of deep drama that will appeal to a smaller audience, while most mainstream viewers (the few who choose to see it) will find it strange and perplexing and maybe even pretentious. But it’s the most intriguing kind of pretentious, filmed with a mix of philosophy, surrealism, and playfulness, too.

The natural settings are vibrant and breathtaking, from the snow-peaked Alps to the lush, green forests. It’s a striking contrast to most of the resort’s guests: bleak and expressionless drones who mindlessly follow the crowd from pool to sauna to noiseless meals to increasingly bizarre evening entertainment.

But, in the midst of it all, Fred and Mick stand out. They have an easy-going friendship that allows them to discuss everything from their work to their prostate problems during strolls through the grounds. And while Fred fully embraces what his daughter diagnoses as apathy, Mick desperately searches for a fitting conclusion to his life’s work. It’s a random and generally rambling film filled with eccentric characters, all of whom seem to be in some kind of search for meaning in life—yet it’s strangely mesmerizing, too.

And, of course, it’s no surprise that it’s all brilliantly acted. The remarkable cast doesn’t disappoint—from Keitel’s lively performance as the aging director to Caine’s thoughtful performance as the introspective composer. And their characters are sure to surprise, amuse, and challenge viewers.

Youth isn’t a simple, straightforward film. It’s strange and bewildering and quirky—the kind of film that will leave audiences with a variety of topics and philosophies to wrestle with after it’s over. But it’s also beautiful and musical and loaded with award-worthy performances. So while it probably won’t appeal to wider audiences, it’s a notable award season release.

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