La Meglio giovent├╣ (The Best of Youth)

At long last, an imported Italian film without mandolinas, gondolas or big fat mammas dressed in black! With this Italian family saga which spans the ’60s through the present day, “The Best of Youth (I and II)”, Marco Tullio Giordana presents us with an emotionally sincere, tragicomic family portrait. Don’t let the 6 hour running time discourage you; time flies by in the company of these brilliantly constructed characters towards which we undeniably feel bonded.

The saga starts in the 1960s when two brothers, Nicola, the sympathetic doctor to be, and Matteo, the brooding mysterious loner (played with subtle emotional depth by Alessio Boni and Luigi Lo Cascio) decide to go on an enlightening journey to Norway. But Life and its hardships butts in and has its way with them. Giordana intertwines, with an intricate but well paced narrative, the personal with the social. He sort of picks up where Bertolucci’s “1900” left off.

The story of this family is told in conjunction with historical events from the past 40 years such as the Florence flood in 1966 and the bloody episode of the Red Brigade. One remains surprised that the berlusconian owned Rai accepted Giordana’s final cut for it often poses a critical view on the Italian socio-political issues and the failures of the system.

One thing is clear: this is pure melodrama, but never does Giordana’s sentimental touch or the made-for-TV glitches feel too sappy. His style sometimes reminds us of David Lean and let’s admit it, we love the borderline cheesiness of a good tearjerker, especially when filmed and acted with such sincerity and depth. This film is truly a tour de force for Giordana. We leave the theater wanting more (and this is after 6 hours of moviewatching!). So Kleenex in hand, run to see this movie before it disappears from theaters.

Review by Tania Poggione and Alexandre Caron