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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Youth is a quiet, thoughtful drama about characters reflecting on their lives and learning to accept loss. It's from director Paolo Sorrentino, whose 2014 film The Great Beauty was an Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film. Given that the main characters (played by Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel) are in their golden years, the drama may not appeal to teens -- which is fine, since it includes both male and female full-frontal nudity, as well as graphic sex and additional sex talk. Language is likewise strong (but not frequent), including uses of "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole." A character commits suicide by jumping to his death (nothing graphic is shown), and there's some background smoking.
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What's the story?
Retired composer/conductor Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) is vacationing at a resort in the Swiss alps. His daughter, Lena (Rachel Weisz), is there, recovering from a breakup, as is his best friend, filmmaker Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), who's working with a team of screenwriters on what he hopes will be his masterpiece. An emissary from the queen arrives with an invitation for Ballinger to perform his most popular work, the "Simple Songs," at the palace. He initially refuses, but conversations with the folks at the resort -- including actor Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano) -- cause Ballinger to ponder the elusive nature of memory, love, and art.
Is it any good?
As with his Oscar-winning The Great Beauty, Italian director Paolo Sorrentino brings a gorgeous, dreamy visual style to this drama, even if it's not quite as profound as it wants to be. Sorrentino continues to channel Italian cinema history, copying Fellini again, as well as Antonioni (and the movie is also dedicated to the late Francesco Rosi). But while those directors used their own style to tackle their own themes, Sorrentino feels lost in their shadows, indirectly using tools from their kits, stuck between art and commercialism.
On the plus side, working with such a quiet, reflective atmosphere, the filmmaker allows plenty of room for the actors to explore their emotions; they all live up to the opportunity. And, with the help of cinematographer Luca Bigazzi, as well as the gorgeous Swiss locations, YOUTH conjures up many beautiful, thought-provoking images without resorting to flashy movements; it's a movie of stillness.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Youth's use of sex and nudity. What purpose does sex serve in the movie? What questions arise? What mood does it create? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
Why is one character hoping to do his best work, while another character refuses to work anymore? What is each hoping to achieve?
What does the movie have to say about art and the creative process? Why do people create things?
How do you feel about a quiet movie like this, where seemingly "nothing happens"?
- In theaters: December 4, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: March 1, 2016
- Cast: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Jane Fonda
- Director: Paolo Sorrentino
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: graphic nudity, some sexuality, and language
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