Youth – Review

Worth seeing: as a beautiful fairytale for anyone who's reached the point in their life where they start looking backwards
Director:Paolo Sorrentino
Featuring:Harvey Keitel, Michael Caine, Alex Beckett, Alex MacQueen, Chloe Pirrie, Jane Fonda, Mark Gessner, Nate Dern, Paloma Faith, Paul Dano, Rachel Weisz, Tom Lipinski
Length:124 minutes
Country:France, Italy, Switzerland, UK
Released:29th January 2016


Retired composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) is relaxing at an exclusive Alpine spa hotel with his long-time friend, film director Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel). Mick isn’t relaxing – he’s working on what he hopes will be the screenplay that defines his career, with the help of a group of young writers.

Watching them from afar is a young actor, Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano), who’s gone to the retreat for some quiet preparation for his next role.

Fred is trying to brush off an emissary from Buckingham Palace, who’s flown in to persuade him to return to the UK to conduct a performance of his most famous work for the Queen – something he has no intention of doing. Mick’s main creative problems come from the insistence of his film’s backers that he should cast an old flame (Jane Fonda).

As the pair struggle with their present and consider the people and events from their youth, Fred’s daughter and personal assistant Lena (Rachel Weisz) finds herself back in the company of her ex, who’s now dating the singer Paloma Faith (playing herself).


While, in many ways, this plays like an episodic Robert Altman-esque ensemble piece, it revolves around the veterans at its core – both of whom deliver thoughtful and passionate performances that will make you delve deep into your own past.

Perhaps the most genuine relationship in the film is that between Sir Michael Caine’s Fred Ballinger and his daughter, Rachel Weisz delivering a performance as emotive as she gave in The Deep Blue Sea.

With cinematography that befits the gorgeous Alpine scenery and performances that range – necessarily – from genuine to arch, depending on the character’s role or purpose in the narrative, the Oscar-winning Sorrentino – the latest of many foreign-language directors to turn their attention to films in English (alongside the likes of The Lobster‘s Yorgos Lanthimos and The Revenant‘s Alejandro González Iñárritu) – brings us a heart-warming and heart-breaking exploration of everything from aging and bereavement to ego and creativity, via ambition and parent-child relationships.

His screenplay – perhaps thanks to the competence of his cast, including some delightful cameos – understands every last one of its themes and treats each with the respect it deserves. Rather than drawing any real conclusions about its protagonists, Youth is more about helping you understand your own life.

There’s more than the odd touch of quirkiness throughout what plays as a fairytale in places, and much needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, but with so many elements to it, Youth is likely to strike a chord or three with most viewers, at whichever point they find themselves on life’s journey.