Like a lighter, condensed version of their sprawling, six-hour BEST OF YOUTH, screenwriters Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli's adaptation of Antonio Pennacchi's novel follows two brothers who find themselves on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum during the politically charged late 1960s and early '70s,.
Teenage Accio (Elio Germano) and his older brother Manrico (Riccardo Scarmaccio) were raised 40 miles outside of Rome in Latina, a working-class suburb planned and built in the early 1930s by Mussolini's regime, and where memories of Italy's ignoble recent past are slow to fade. Their father (Massimo Popolizio) is a struggling factory worker who rues the day the American soldiers ever landed in Italy and interfered with Fascism, while their mother (Angela Finocchiaro) is resolutely apolitical: The only time she ever voted was 25 years earlier when the "House Party" promised new housing for residents whose homes where literally crumbling around their ears -- a promise that has yet to be fulfilled. Almost as a reaction to the town's totalitarian roots, temperamental Manrico has become a radical Communist, active in the local party and, with his girlfriend Francesca (Diane Fleri), driven to help the workers of Latina. And perhaps as a reaction to Manrico, Accio -- in the full bloom of teenage rambunctiousness that's pushing his parents to the edge -- has fallen in with the virulently anti-Left Neo-fascists of the MSI party who are bent on redeeming the country's "lost honor" through intimidation and violence. Over the coming years and as Italy plunges deeper into political turmoil, Accio and Manrico will be pushed to opposite outer fringes of political extremism, but beneath the rhetoric, they remain brothers to the core.
Rooted in a terrific performance by Germano, who ages convincingly from callow youth to sympathetic adult as the story unfolds, this smart, engaging film shows how much political convictions are often rooted in the inchoate passions and early disappointments of youth, many of them sexual in nature. "You need to get laid," Manrico tells his frustrated kid brother, and he's right. Directed by Daniel Luchetti in the spirit of his compatriots Bernardo Bertolucci and Marco Bellocchio, it's sweet, tragic and surprisingly funny. There's a hilarious performance of a "de-fascisized" version of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," and the soundtrack prominently features an Italian version of the crypto-fascist girl-group classic "I Will Follow Him," a joke Kenneth Anger first made in "Scorpio Rising" that's still funny today.
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