Friday, November 25, 2011

The Best of Youth

If you've seen the movie The Best of Youth then the picture above will mean something to you. And if you haven't then I urge you to see it. It won't be easy but do try to track this film down and watch it with someone you love. It's one of the most wonderful movies I've ever seen. In fact, it's more than a movie. It's an experience. I decided to write a post about it because this film deserves a wider audience.

Oh, if we only knew the treasures we have unopened in our own homes! Just like books, there are DVD movies I've bought that I fully intended to watch but somehow they end up sitting on the shelf gathering dust. The Best of Youth or La meglio gioventù (Italy, 2003) is one such film. It has sat unwatched for six years. I was holidaying in Spain when it was being shown in a few movie theaters. Reviews were stellar so when I came across the DVD a year or so later, I didn't hesitate to buy it. Mind you this is a 4-disc set because it's a six and a half hour long film. A daunting length I know so I put it aside and quickly forgot about it.

Did I mention that I recently started a Movie Club? We've covered two excellent films so far that have provoked a lot of discussion. The Secret in Their Eyes (Argentina, 2010) and Caché (France, 2005). We assign one film a month and people see it on their own. We then meet over lunch or dinner to discuss. So far so good. So in an effort to find more films, I thought I'd finally watch The Best of Youth. Last Sunday night, my husband and I decided to watch a DVD and I popped this in. The fact that it was more than six hours long made me say, 'if we don't like it we can stop and watch something else."  But in just a few minutes we were engaged, then riveted and then the first of four discs ended. The next day was Monday and in spite of our busy day we found that the characters had somehow flitted in and out of our thoughts. So that night we happily sat down and watched disc 2 and by the end we were in love with the characters.

The story itself seems so simple. It follows the lives of two brothers and their families from 1966 to the present day. Forty years of their lives with key historical Italian events in the background. I admit that it's not a plot that makes me want to run out and see the film and that's probably another reason why it sat on the shelf for so long. It's brilliant because of the wonderful script, casting and direction. Director  Marco Tullio Giordana films in such a way that makes the viewer a part of the whole sweeping saga. When things happened to them, I honestly felt like it was happening to me and my own.

The Best of Youth is beautiful, warm and humane and I grew to really love the Carati family especially Matteo and Nicola. It's about life, love, family and friendship. There is just so much depth, honesty and wisdom in this film that I don't think I can write a review that it deserves. We cried, smiled and laughed several times and by the end my husband and I would have gladly sat for another six hours. The casting was fantastic especially those of Luigi Lo Cascio and Alessio Boni. Both are Italian actors that I've never heard of but I'll definitely try to look up their other movies now.

If you are lucky enough to find a copy of The Best of Youth then do watch it please. You'll never forget it unless you have a heart of stone.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Never Let Me Go -the Second Time Around

I reread the brilliant Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and absolutely loved it the second time around. (spoilers) I think it helped that I knew the ending this time. I wasn't hoping that Kathy, Ruth and Tommy would somehow run away and escape. I wasn't distressed by their passive acceptance of it all. I knew there wasn't any hope so I could just concentrate on the characters and their story. I think the main question it raises is what would have been preferable - growing up in Hailsham and  'not knowing' or 'half knowing' their fate or growing up in another donor school where their existence and education may have been bleaker but at least they would have known the truth about their purpose. I still don't know the right answer so I'm sure this would make an interesting discussion point in our book club later this month. Readers, I would love to know your thoughts on this if you have read the book.

The first time I read Never Let Me Go, I remember not being particularly charmed by any of the characters. I didn't dislike them but I didn't love them. However, in spite of that I rooted for them every step of the way. The second time around I really grew to care about Kathy, Ruth and Tommy and their plight. It's interesting how different readings can produce distinct reactions.

I remember watching the film and hoping Hollywood would weave its magic spell and churn out a happy ending. I think it's just a testament to our humanity that in spite of it all we hope for the best. For once, I didn't want the film to be like the book. But no, there were no surprises and no one lives happily ever after. I felt the depressing feeling that doesn't come often when watching a film. Only one other film comes to mind that brings about such a heavy heart and that is Breaking The Waves. You'll understand exactly what I mean if you've seen that movie.

Never Let Me Go stars Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield plus a fantastic supporting cast. I must say that everyone gave an excellent performance especially Andrew Garfield who I only later found out played Eduardo in The Social Network. Two roles that couldn't be more different. Some things were left out but all in all I thought it was a worthy adaptation by Alex Garland. In hindsight, looking at the poster for the film above, I realize how fitting that photo actually is. I think it perfectly captures the feeling of hopelessness. The feeling of just wanting to be free, to escape against all odds. It's a heartbreaking poster because I know their story.
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