Youth (2015)

Youth is a beautifully shot film, with a fantastic cast. But I found the characters hollow, the story meandering, and the themes either painfully overwrought (“What awaits me outside?” / “Youth.”) or muddled. Caine, Keitel, and Weisz all get a few scenes in which they shine (and Alex Macqueen is as great as ever), but the normally great Dano doesn’t manage to do anything great with his awkward subplot (the dialogue in his climactic scene with a young girl was painfully on-the-nose), and the three leads are fairly aloof and cold in most of their scenes. While that may be by design, especially for Caine’s character, it doesn’t make for great viewing.

There are plenty of gorgeous shots in the film of the Alps and the expensive celebrity resort, but with writing like this I found it very hard to empathise with the characters. There’s plenty of stories with rich characters experiencing “first world problems” I have no problems connecting with, but I really did find myself utterly disconnected with most of the characters and their troubles in this film. Most Hollywood films about the oh so terrible struggles of famous Hollywood screenwriters approach a level of tone-deafness regarding their audience, and this was no exception, even with Keitel trying his best to serve the role. His scriptwriting scenes felt almost a parody of films like this.

I’m aware the director of the film doesn’t have English as a first language, but some of the dialogue in the film really was quite awful for a film like this. Perhaps there was some attempt to reinforce Caine’s character’s comment that he struggles with words and prefers music…but I think I might be reaching there.

There are a few fantastic moments in the film. Caine conducting a field of cows is a magical scene, utterly enjoyable. Some of the landscape shots and dialogue-less montages are great. But when a film’s characters don’t work, the film doesn’t work, and the character’s really did not work for me. I am young and thus not as able to personally identify with much of the thematic content of the film, but I hardly think the themes here are arcane or terribly complex.

I give it two screenplays, and a levitating monk.

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