Film-Forward Review: [THE BEST OF YOUTH]

Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Alessio Boni (foreground) as Matteo Carati
Photo: Miramax

Rotten Tomatoes
Showtimes & Tickets
Enter Zip Code:

Directed by: Marco Tullio Giordana.
Produced by: Angelo Barbagallo.
Written by: Sandro Petraglia & Stefano Rulli.
Director of Photography: Roberto Forza.
Edited by: Roberto Missiroli.
Released by: Miramax.
Language: Italian with English subtitles.
Country of Origin: Italy. Part 1: 182 min; Part 2: 176 min. Rated: R.
With: Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessio Boni, Adriana Asti, Sonia Bergamasco, Fabrizio Gifuni, Maya Sansa & Jasmine Trinca.

Through the course of four decades, social and political issues are subtly interwoven in this absorbing saga of an Italian family, centering on two brothers. Beginning in the mid-'60s, optimistic Nicola (Luigi Lo Cascio), a recent college graduate, interns at a mental hospital where electroshock therapy is the norm. (A doctor boasts that dealing with a patient will "be easier than walking a dog.") Before embarking on a summer of fun, Good Samaritans Nicola and his brother Matteo (Alessio Boni) free from the ward a withdrawn young woman undergoing shock treatment. The outcome of this ill-fated rescue mission will lead the brothers to go their separate ways. Nicola pursues a career as a psychiatrist, while the emotionally rigid Matteo joins the army and becomes a cop. They inadvertently reunite as both flock to Florence to save its art and buildings during the flood of 1966. There, Nicola will meet fellow volunteer and future wife Giulia, played by Marianne Faithful look-alike Sonia Bergamasco. Both she and Matteo, extreme political opposites, resolutely believe they are always right. While he defends the law, she submerges further into a Red Brigade-type terrorist group during the turbulent '70s, organizing meetings behind her husband Nicola's back.

The Best of Youth was originally made for Italian television. Only the film's narrative, which otherwise would have been condensed, and the occasional two-shot where one character turns away from the other (a telenovela staple), betray its origins. The photography at times is quite cinematic, especially a suspenseful sequence of tracking shots following Giulia on a secret rendezvous. The Italian scenery is made to great use - the Roman Forum, Sicily and Turin - and the melancholic soundtrack includes pop songs ranging from The Doors to Dinah Washington. At a monumental six hours, the running time is a luxury, allowing the viewer to define the characters. It also fully justifies all of the novelistic twists, turns, and coincidences. The Best of Youth more than earns its running time. Without the in-depth history of the Carati family, the ending wouldn't have nearly as much emotional impact.

The second half is the most rewarding; all the strings of the volatile story lines are tied, one of which includes a shocking event. And it is certainly possible to see only the second half and still be able to follow the film. Of course, some of the relationships will lack resonance, especially Nicola's bond with Giorgia. The strong cast includes Adriana Asti, who as the mother has a devastating breakdown scene, and Maya Sansa as Mirella, perhaps the film's most sympathetic character, a photographer pursuing Matteo. Sansa lights up the screen. Matteo's harsh rejection of Mirella is just one of the epic's many heartrending moments. Kent Turner
March 2, 2005



Archive of Previous Reviews, 180 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012 - Contact us