R / 2h 4m / Comedy, Drama
– So I’ve grown old without understanding how I got here.
– Do you know what awaits you outside of here?
Hey did you hear about that Michael Caine film that’s the best and most meaningful performance of his career? Yeah, me neither.
But we need to fucking talk about Youth.
It’s phenomenal, philosophical, completely moving – highlighting life and lingering on relationships and the importance of emotional reactions.
Fred Ballinger (Caine) is a retired conductor vacationing in the Swiss Alps with his long time best friend Mick Boyle (Keitel), a near-end-of-career director stuck in a writer’s rut while trying to create his legacy film. When the Queen asks that Ballinger to lead a performance for her in England, he declines due to untold personal reasons and begins to wander down the road of age – contemplating on the quality of how his time was spent. With the help of his daughter, Lena (Weisz), and a young American actor, Jimmy Tree (Dano), Ballinger gives in to himself and his experiences – and gives us one of the most beautiful conclusions to two hours of heavy dialogue and a sincerely above par soundtrack I have almost ever experienced.
I mean it when I say the soundtrack was above par. Like, I can’t even believe it. It was both perfect and completely out of place. More than once it took lead in the scene – more than once it was touching, or jarring, or weird. All appropriate as we are learning about a conductor whose life was dedicated to music. I’m sitting here writing this and I can’t wait to watch it again.
As I am now recounting all of the reasons I want to watch this again – I have to talk about the cinematography constantly blowing me away with the scenery and the sly depictions of youth and seniority that surrounds us at all times. I have to talk about the funky and weird side characters at the resort that we learn enough about to care about. And I just have to talk about the juxtapositions brought to us by the main characters presented in different stages of their life and how they feed off of each other and learn from each other. GOD. DAMN.
My favorite scenes include: Lena and Fred covered in mud while she recounts how she remembers him from her childhood, the cow symphony, Jimmy talking about how he wants to focus on desire in his work rather than horror while in full Hitler get up, Mick standing in a field with all of the female characters of his past films, and of course, the finale. Goodness, that finale.
It makes you think about how it all connects. It makes you look back and look forward at the same time. Youth challenges you – it is a treat to watch – but what’s more is that it demands to be felt – and there is nothing better than watching credits roll with a new feeling in your chest.