I saw this film not because I chose to but because it was thrust upon me by way of a surprise pre-TIFF screening for members. Each year Piers Handling hand selects a film for TIFF Patron Circle members before the festival activities begin. Last year we saw the highly enjoyable Force Majeure. This year his selection was something to appeal to the older crowd – Youth. Having gone through many of the films announced so far for this year’s festival, Youth was not high on my list. You may be familiar with director Paolo Sorrentino given his Best Foreign Film Oscar for A Great Beauty, his visually stunning somewhat avant-garde masterpiece. While I did think A Great Beauty was a beautiful film, I found the characters narcissistic, shallow and boring. My fear and perception from watching the trailer for Youth was that it would simply be Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel sitting in A Great Beauty lamenting over their lost youth. Snore. But alas, Youth has much more of a storyline and depth to its more likeable characters.
Fred, a retired composer played by Michael Caine, along with his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz), have accompanied his friend movie director friend Mick (Harvey Keitel) to a luxurious health spa in the Alps. Fred and Lena seem to be there to enjoy a holiday and spa treatments, while Mick is there with a group of young writers hoping to find inspiration for his new film. Fred who seems comfortable with his decision to retire, is being pressured to come out of retirement to perform before a very prestigious audience. Mick, on the other hand, is reluctant to give up directing even though it seems it might be time to do just that. The two of them wander around the spa resort, observing the guests, talking about their children and bickering about a girl they were both infatuated with many years ago, but never do they seem to speak meaningfully about each other’s past or present.
It is a story of two men who have devoted their lives and love to their art and how that has impacted those who have loved them. Perhaps a bit slow at times, I thought the dialogue was good, the performances were solid, and visually stunning, the cinematography was very beautiful.