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Best of Youth

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Dir. Marco Tullio Giordana
2003
Spanning four decades in the life of one Italian family, Best of Youth recreates the depth and psychological breadth of a fine novel.
It’s also compulsive viewing, though I spread its six-hour length over a few days. And to talk about what happens in the film would ruin your potential enjoyment of its character development and plot twists (which are often sudden and shocking).
But essentially we have two brothers, Nicola (Luigi Lo Cascio) and Matteo (Alessio Boni), who we join as they are about to graduate from college in the early 60s. Along with two of their friends, they have a great European trip planned. Nicola is the studious one, Matteo is the impulsive one, though even at the beginning, they share each others qualities. The trip goes awry–Matteo, who is volunteering at a psychiatric hospital, rescues a young female patient,Giorgia (Jasmine Trinca), convinced she is being tortured with electroshock therapy. The two friends go on ahead, while the two brothers abscond with the girl to return her to her family in the north. Yet, that doesn’t work out either, in surprising ways, and Nicola winds up being the only one to really travel outside the country, up to Norway.


In this opening hour, director Marco Tullio Giordana and writers Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli are planting the psychological seeds of all that will happen later with the two brothers, underlying most of their decisions and choices. Nicola’s brief fling with a Norwegian may be what attracts him to the blonde, Nico-like Giulia (Sonia Bergamasco)–also her unruliness may suggest a substitution for the (now distant) brother. And a lot of what happens to Matteo results from his unrequited love for Giorgia.
Yet, there’s so much more, and Best of Youth is one of those films that you can debate with friends, because the film gives so much information. Giordana swings no hammers to make sure we get these connections, but goes with a softer touch. Both male and female characters are complex and deep, and by the end, we feel we know them very well.
(My only complaint was a middle section full of some of the worse process shots–greenscreen in a car–that I’ve seen. Absolutely baffling that in a film this gorgeously shot one would find this effects work that makes local cable look pro).
Anyway, highly highly highly recommended. Life-changing, like the similarly long Human Condition by Masaki Kobayashi.

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