The Best of Youth. Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessio Boni, Adriana Asti, and Sonia Bergamasco in a film written by Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli and directed by Marco Tullio Giordana.
A salient and slightly infamous Italian film, The Best of Youth is a matter of scale: 6.5-hour films rarely dent public consciousness. But that lavish time frame and epic scope is also one of its virtues — the film pulls us into its temporal tapestry of familial intrigue and turns in Italian history we have either forgotten or never known. Fate and family spread out during four decades and multiple sub-narratives in Best of Youth, which opens in 1966 Rome and finishes in Norway, circa 2003, where a new generation continues on. The high idealism of youth — especially that of the generation coming of age and expressing activist rage in the ’60s — manifests itself in radically different directions among characters. A brother in the Carati clan, Matteo (Alessio Boni), is emotionally repressed and desperately seeks a life of order, first in the military and then as a policeman. A wife and mother, fueled by social indignation and anarchist demons, disappears into an underground existence in the revolutionary-cum-terrorist organization, the Red Brigade. And very much in the middle of the film’s saga is the even-tempered and grounded brother, Nicola Carati (Luigi Lo Cascio), a psychiatrist whose abiding attempts to achieve order affect his extended family life as well as society at large. Through it all, the director keeps an even hand on the pacing and juggling of elements. Focus continually shifts from the personal to the societal, touching on the flood of Florence of 1966, student riots in Turin in 1974, and mafia killings in 1992, all viewed cleverly through the prism of the Carati family saga. Although the film is told in a mostly well-crafted but unpretentious style, pleasurable filmic moments line the way, such as a scene with a “Red Brigade” encounter in a movie theater where Umbrellas of Cherbourg is screening. Overall, The Best of Youth is so engrossing and beautifully done, the patches of sentimentality along the way go down easily. We’re hooked.