Turn off the Lights

Youth Review

"We are all extras. All we have is emotions"
Considering what life would offer in the twilight years has been the subject matter of a multitude of films. Youth provides a unique perspective in the lives of people who have been given success, but have to come to terms with life outside of the limelight and with each day seeming like borrowed time. The stellar cast makes Youth intriguing, but it has the potential to be filled with depressing, fatalistic drivel. Which will prevail?
Lena Ballinger (Rachel Weisz) has set her father up in one of the most exclusive resorts in Europe to get him back in shape. Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) will be pampered and his health will be monitored to ensure that that he is able to enjoy his stay and the rest of his life. The only problem is that Fred does not see the value in all of this attention. He is a retired composer and conductor who enjoys his newspaper, observing the other guests and taking long strolls with his best friend. His partner in this observational lifestyle is Mick (Harvey Keitel), who is a world renowned film director in the twilight of his career. He is at this holiday destination with different motives. With his young production team, Mick is preparing his final cinematic masterpiece in collaboration with his muse, Brenda Morel (Jane Fonda). These two elder statesmen observe the lives of the other residents with wonder, curiosity and distant sympathy. During their voyeuristic surveillance and distant evaluation of others lives, the reality of their own lives and history bears down on their serenity.
youth-cannes-film-festival-4Italian Director Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) is known for his short films and his European writing flair. Youth has the cinematic flavour of the Italian cinema which includes lush scenery, long takes of people in unique and bizarre situations and the unapologetic celebration of the human body. Even the utilisation of the majestic location and landscapes at the foot of the Alps provides a magnificent backdrop for this story of ageing and friendship. The characters all seem to be operating in a dream state and move from one surreal experience to the next. Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel provide the comedic timing of senior journeymen and give the film the subtle emotional edge needed to drive the story. As a free flowing art form, Sorrentino shows his visual artistry and ability to capture the beauty of the landscape, but this is where the accolades come to a conclusion.
1450144638204At the heart of Sorrentino's script is conductor Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) who is renowned for his composition of ‘The Simple Songs.' The compositions have brought him notoriety and fame, but this attention has been challenging to his relationships and even his holiday. Fred is trying to find simple solace as he ages, the complexities of his life choices begin to cause the unravelling of his experience. Sorrentino’s writing becomes so complex that the message is unclear and convoluted. In the tradition of most fatalistic cinema, the under girding storyline is depressing and lacks any fulfilment. It does harbour an ecclesiastical tension of the futility of life and shows that the best of creature comforts cannot buy anyone happiness. What begins as a simple message of ageing and friendship, becomes a depressing and overly-complex tale of selfishness and the lack of self fulfilment.
  • Cinematography
  • Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel
  • The underlying message
  • Post modern writing style


Meet the Author

About / Bio
Bio and image
Russell is an American ex-pat who has been transplanted in his new home of Sydney. He is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and the blog Russelling Reviews. He moderates events called Reel Dialogue (reeldialogue.com) which connects the film industry with the general public.

Follow Us