In the movie, Youth, Michael Caine stars as the main character, Fred Ballinger. Fred is a retired orchestra conductor who takes some time out in a health resort in the Swiss Alps. Also at the resort is Fred’s lifelong friend, Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), who is currently working on a screenplay. The two friends are tied not only by friendship but by the marriage of Fred’s daughter, Lena (Rachel Weisz), to Mick’s son, and through a common affection, in years gone by, for Fred’s elusive wife.
As the title “Youth” implies, Fred and Mick reminisce about their youth. While doing so they try to both hold onto their youth, and to accept its loss, something Fred seems to achieve to some degree in the end. Lesser characters at the spa also experience their own inner turmoil. For example, Lena’s marriage falls apart, and the brooding young actor, Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano), cogitates upon the art and value of authentic acting.
Whilst the film ends on a somewhat positive (musical) note, most of the “action” is of a gloomy psychological nature, punctuated by a few bursts of happiness in the form of wise quips from small children. Even the beautiful alps form a silent and suffocating backdrop to the resort guests’ mental distress. Youth paints a depressing picture of old age, particularly amongst the idle rich, and is made even more melancholy by its cerebral approach.
Youth reminded me of another film Michael Caine starred in, the similarly psychological and depressing Mr Morgan’s Last Love, which I also reviewed. Whilst I didn’t exactly want to stick needles in my eyes rather than watch Youth, its two-hour long screening was not a particularly enjoyable one.
Youth opens at cinemas in South Africa on 8 July.