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Wasted on the young

OUT NOW! Even though YOUTH does tackle issues of mortality with occasionally misguided stabs at drama, it's a largely lighthearted look at age, with sharp performances from an excellent cast.

Addressing mortality and existential anxieties in an often lighthearted manner, albeit not from the end of life you’d expect, is the somewhat misleadingly titled Youth. Starring the old acting legends Caine and Keitel as a retired orchestra conductor and a film director well past his prime, it follows the quibbling odd couple as they wander around a luxurious resort in the Swiss Alps. In between ogling a scantily-clad Miss Universe and chatting up an otherwise colourful ensemble of hotel guests, the two argue about everything from the failed marriage of their children to the woman they both fell in love with decades ago, inadvertently triggering surges of memory that lead to unforeseen outcomes.

Booed at its Cannes premiere, the movie does err on the side of pretentiousness from time to time. Its foray into full-out dramatic territory, especially, backfires with a whiff of new-agey faux-profundity. But by and large, the brilliantly-seasoned performances and Sorrentino’s impeccable taste still lift the fabulous-looking and -sounding picture to a place of artistic, stylistic grandeur.

Ever the classic thespian, Caine brings his trademark impenetrable composure to the screen, adding mystique and just a hint of cruelty to this amicably detached character. Keitel is on fire here, delivering one perfect wisecrack after another like nobody’s business. In a cameo appearance, Jane Fonda also delights as a magnificently wrinkled, furiously bitter diva from the past. It’s a joy to watch actors of this caliber do what comes so naturally to them. You only wish all that acting showcase framed within such downright erotic visual yumminess could have culminated in a note that actually reverberates, instead of this piercing but rather forced falsetto.

Youth | Directed by Paolo Sorrentino (Italy, France, Switzerland, UK 2015) with Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz. Starts November 26