The Best Of Youth

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Marco Tullio Giordana's six-hour dramatic epic is that it feels no longer than the usual 90-minute-plus feature. In fact, it's so well paced that it feels considerably shorter than most. While the subject is really Italy as it stumbles out of the ruins of WWII, the story follows Nicola (Luigi Lo Cascio) and Matteo Carati...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Perhaps the most amazing thing about Marco Tullio Giordana's six-hour dramatic epic is that it feels no longer than the usual 90-minute-plus feature. In fact, it's so well paced that it feels considerably shorter than most. While the subject is really Italy as it stumbles out of the ruins of WWII, the story follows Nicola (Luigi Lo Cascio) and Matteo Carati (Alessio Boni), two very different Roman brothers who come of age and grow old during the final four decades of the 20th century. Both are part of the first generation of Italians born amid the country's post-WWII unemployment and inflation, and the moment that defines their destinies occurs in the summer of 1966. Nicola, who's studying to become a doctor, and Italian-literature student Matteo, who works part-time at a psychiatric facility, are about to embark on their summer holiday when temperamental Matteo impulsively helps Giorgia (Jasmine Trinca), a troubled young patient he's befriended, to escape. Deeply disturbed by Giorgia's tell-tale electroshock scars and worsening condition, Matteo and Nicola seek out her family in Ravenna, only to find that Giorgia's father wants no part of caring for a mentally ill daughter. Giorgia is soon picked up by the police, but the injustice of the experience has profound and lasting effects on both brothers, who part ways and move in very different directions. Nicola heads north to Norway, where he falls in with the burgeoning European counterculture and eventually pursues a career in progressive psychiatry with an eye toward reforming Italy's medieval mental health system. Matteo, on the other hand, finds solace in orthodoxy, rigidity and order: Determined to put the world to rights, he returns to Rome, quits school and enlists first in the army, then the police force. Over the next 40 years, the brothers will meet at key moments, starting with the terrible flood that struck Florence in 1966 and united the army and Italian youth in a tireless effort to preserve the city's treasures. When their paths cross again eight years later in Turin, a city rocked by student battles with police, they meet from opposite sides of a widening ideological divide. Matteo, now a hard-edged cop, finds Nicola living with his longtime girlfriend, Giulia (Sonia Bergamasco), a communist whose activities with the radical left-wing Red Brigade will terrorize Italy throughout the coming decade and shatter the Carati family. The luxury of a huge dramatis personae — key players also include the brothers' older sister, Giovanna (Lidia Vitale), and mother, Adriana (Adriana Asti) — and such deep, novelistic character treatment is usually reserved for television, which is where this drama originated; Giordana conceived this magnificent film as a serial for Italian TV. Nevertheless, it all hangs together beautifully. Giordana closely ties the course of Matteo and Nicola's increasingly difficult, ultimately tragic, relationship to the resuscitation of a damaged country as it lurches haltingly toward a new millennium. But you needn't know — or care — much about Italy's recent history to be entirely swept up in this gripping epic. Rarely have six hours spent doing anything seemed so rewarding.

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Perhaps the most amazing thing about Marco Tullio Giordana's six-hour dramatic epic is that it feels no longer than the usual 90-minute-plus feature. In fact, it's so well paced that it feels considerably shorter than most. While the subject is really Ital… (more)

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