If you love watching old, rich white people getting massaged, you’ll love ‘Youth’

Youth begins at a top tier luxury resort enveloped by the gorgeous green mountains of Switzerland. It’s here we meet Fred (Michael Caine), a legendary maestro in his twilight days, enjoying some time with his best friend, Mick (Harvey Keitel), a well-known filmmaker on the verge of his best script yet.

Fred’s daughter, Leda (Rachel Weisz), has accompanied him on this trip, and we watch as the characters are revealed during massages, saunas, and lounge sessions in heated pools. Long strolls through the small towns and nature trails of the Swiss Alps makes for breathtaking scenery, and cinematographer Luca Bigazzi certainly took a bite out of the beautiful countryside.


Image:Fox Searchlight Pictures

Fred soon receives an invitation from the Queen to perform for Prince Philip’s birthday celebration, and she offers him a knighthood for his service in song. Mick continues working on his screenplay with a few actors in tow, who bring some younger flesh to the story and add some interesting overlap.

In this fancy forested hotel setting, Fred reveals himself to be a lonely man, missing his wife and wishing he had been a better husband and father. Mick eventually has a confrontation with the intended star of his new film, and both men have to make decisions that will affect what little of their future actually remains.

Though the cinematography is quite elegant as it guides us through dream sequences, meadow fields and astounding architecture, some scenes feel superfluous, and end up amounting to nothing later on.  A few characters have one or two lines, and are then revealed in their time alone as if they’re being introduced to the story, but then we don’t see them again. Although the pace feels too slow and the story is strangely arranged, there are great acting moments that are very relatable when family tension runs high. Moments that make  us ponder questions like whether  we really know who our parents are.

One interesting feature is the ballroom of the resort, which is equipped with a moon shaped rotating stage that carries an array of strings, singers and music makers for guests of the hotel. Many of the characters converse here while enjoying the tunes and cocktails, giving music a clever presence, considering its absence from a story that involves an accomplished composer. However, the film does suffer from some other, stranger injections of music. These seem to jostle the pace, and appear in favor of a pushable soundtrack rather than a narrative assist or mood enhancement.

Image: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Image: Fox Searchlight Pictures

There are interesting bits of character development throughout this luxury vacation for the 1%, with a couple of wild confrontations at the end. As one actress quips, “No one speaks frankly in this little film world.”

Well, I will, and I have this to say: for all its beauty and creativity, this film is really ill timed. At least, it is in America, where we’re busy having one of the craziest elections in our nation’s history, as angry people everywhere are rallying against the elites and the establishment in control of the economy that’s fucking us all over. So, I’m very sorry that this movie cracked just two million at the box office, but I understand why: because none of us commoners really care how rich people relax in the Swiss Alps, or how they like their tea, or if they feel okay about their mommy and daddy. It’s still a beautifully done film for people who enjoy slower stories with elements of mystery, but I can see why it had more of a niche appeal. Most of us peasants would rather spend money on movies full of big explosions, huge titties and 3D dinosaurs – anything to distract us from our broken political system and stagnant wages.

The characters must make choices at the end of Youth’s story on how they will continue theirs. Mostly, it’s a story about two old white men that are part of the elite patriarchy, looking in the rearview mirror of their lives at the world as they slowly lose their place in it.

There was an interesting mix of characters spanning generations. Older, wealthy, younger, connected, the working class and the elites – but mostly the whole beautiful film fits into one hashtag: #richwhitepeopleproblems. The movie seemed, at times, as if it was trying to prove a point about pretentiousness in film, but ended up falling victim to many of cinema’s biggest clichés.