The film, “The Best of Youth,” is like a fine wine, aged for four decades and made from grapes that grown in the most stunning landscapes of Italy. It is complex in flavor, rich in texture, full-bodied with a fair balance and has an extremely long aftertaste of adventure, love, and loss. Leave your American sense of time behind. Allow yourself to slip into a slow European pace of life and indulge in this pleasure-seeking dramatic portrait of Italian culture.
Director Marco Tullio Giordana’s six-hour film, which was originally made as a mini-series for Italian television, begins languidly and develops charmingly. The film depicts two brothers, Nicola (Luigi Lo Cascio) and Matteo Carati (Alessio Boni), who are raised in Rome with the same values, education and seemingly similar interests. That is, similar until the two encounter a young woman suffering from mental problems named Giorgia (Jasmine Trinca). After meeting and then losing Giorgia, the two brothers’ lives split in radically different directions. This epic film, which spans from 1965 to 2002, is not only about their brotherly relationship, but also about their family, friends, lovers and the political turmoil they stumble upon. The characters deal with tragic floods, terrorism, blue-collar labor rights issues and Mafia ordeals.
This film moves steadily with the fascinating, complex characters that drive its scenes, but it is also lengthy. Think of it as a thick novel – intricate, detailed and extremely rewarding upon completion. The brilliant actors bring to life the strong Italian family, which remains the core strength of the film’s plot. The most impressive member of the cast is Trinca, with her portrayal of Giorgia. Trinca convincingly transforms herself into the mentally unstable Giorgia, complete with awkward movements and a believably forlorn spirit. I was sorry that Giorgia’s character, who was so involved in the plot’s progression, did not dominate the film’s scenes more.
However, “The Best of Youth” is a beautiful work. The audience is taken through vibrant places in Italy: the bustling Mediterranean, Sicily, ancient Rome – which the Carati family calls home – the colder, but not less colorful, city of Turin – where Nicola first delves into his career as a psychiatrist – and the serene turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea. It is enough at times to make the person next to you stand up, throw his hands in the air, and cry, “Bellissimo!” Have patience because, like the best bottles of wine, this film gets better with time. Part II far exceeds Part I in passion, suspense, drama, tragedy and overall story progression. Though the plotlines are a bit jerky at times in Part I, by Part II the problem is – wonderfully – resolved. Similarly, “The Best of Youth” does a marvelous job of fooling its audience that it was ever made for television. The cinematography and direction give the impression that the film was made with the big screen in mind.
I suggest you drink up one glass of wine before the screening of the film, and two during intermission, with a toast of “Cin, cin,” as they say in Italy. “The Best of Youth” screens Saturday, Feb. 25, in Campbell Hall. Part I begins at 2:30 p.m. and Part II starts promptly at 7:30. Tickets are $6 for one part and $10 for both with a student I.D.