After hearing that Youth would be playing at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, I made it my duty to get my hands on tickets to its premiere. As if the impressive cast featuring Michael Cane, Harvey Keitel, Paul Dano and Jane Fondo helmed together under the creative watch of director Paolo Sorrentino wasn’t enough to grasp my attention, the trailer for the film only further heightened my anticipation.
The film centres around to main characters, Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) and Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), two esteemed entertainment professions (Fred was a legendary conductor, while Mick is a well-respected screenwriter trying to create a new (potentially final) script to attribute to his legacy) who are also two longtime friends of one another. Fred and Mick are staying at a lavish Swedish hotel when one day, Fred receives a request from the Queen of England to perform at her husband’s upcoming birthday celebration.
Given the fact that the film stars both Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel, who much like their characters are legends in their own right, it is without a doubt that the acting in this film was an absolute strongpoint. The performances by both actors in this film serve as both of their greatest performances within the past 10 years of their respective careers, as both of them have been more prone to being featured in supporting roles as of recent years. When asked why he joined the film, Caine joked the following:
“Well, it’s not often that lead roles come your way at 80 years old! You take what you could get.”
As much as the general tone of Youth was more dramatic, Caine’s whit shined throughout his role, creating for some highly enjoyable conversations between he and Keitel. Aside from the two leads, Paul Dano and Rachel Weisz proved yet again why they are so strong as supporting actors.
The composition of Youth is absolutely stunning. From its lush landscapes to its impressive set designs, many scenes in the film felt more as if the audience were in a moving portrait as opposed to a film. The mis en scene in the film was also quite interesting, with Sorrentino often positioning his characters in areas that place a unique onto them. It is definitely a factor that the director prioritizes in his work, with this technique previously having been seen in many of his earlier films.
But the most interesting element of Youth digs deeper than just the surface. Aside from being a story of two friends in the twilight years of their life, the film also beautifully explores the different motions and experiences that we as humans all go through in our lifetimes. The film shines in its profound use of symbolism expressed through objects, places and actors.
In conclusion, Youth was undeniably the best film I saw this year at TIFF. Its masterful composition, sincere performances and dazzling concept made for one of the more interesting on-screen interpretations I’ve seen depicting the lives of humans. 9/10