The Best of Youth (La meglio gioventu)

The Best of Youth

What do you read? What words fill your head?

I had kinda hoped my random number picker would’ve chosen this one sooner, just to get it out of the way due to its length, as it clocks in at just over 6 hours straight through. Still, even with the length, The Best of Youth turns out to be an interesting film in many ways. It is not a unique one, I will say that; there are several films on the list alone that follow a select character or characters over a large timespan that seems to reflect their country’s history as it also progresses with them. To be honest, though, most of these aren’t worth watching; they’re either needlessly long or don’t have enough actual watchability to warrant sitting through them, oftentimes both. Boy was I happy to find that The Best of Youth is neither of these things. Sure, it’s long, but it’s long merely because it chooses to not bifurcate its story by truncating it in any way; this is a story on a scope that demands an extensive running time, and for once, it actually felt worth it.

The film in particular focuses on two brothers, Nicola and Matteo, in the Carati family, and like almost all of the other list films of its like that have come before it, the plot is basically the entire lives of these two individuals, from their youth in the 1960s, through their struggles with their professions and parenting, to the denouement of their lives; not their death, but merely the point at which the story ends. Like I said, nothing unique, but the way that The Best of Youth unfolds makes the premise feel entirely fresh. Many reviews and discussions about the film have described the story of The Best of Youth as also being about the story of Italy during the same time period as the lives of the two brothers. Me, though, I didn’t see that; sure, events in Italian history have an effect on the story, but only sometimes, and only when it directly affects the actual story being told here: that of the two brothers and the lives they live. The story is really about that; how a life can evolve and change based on what happens in it, and the ramifications all the way down the road that these tiny moments can lead to. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the film is so well made to boot; a constant thought as I was watching this was that it was consistently excellently made the whole way through, and that it just so happened that “the whole way through” ends up being six hours – never once did the film feel stretched or bloated. That’s how solid the storytelling was, as well as the technicals.

There’s so much to take away from The Best of Youth, no matter what your inclination, that I’m actually finding it hard to not recommend it. Really, the only reason I’d do so is because of the extreme length; other than that, there’s pretty much no reason not to go watch this one. It’s currently streaming on Netflix Instant, so as long as you have a Netflix account, it’s basically free to watch, and… you know what, to hell with it; you should take the time to see this. It really is that good. There’s a couple of versions floating around, and I apparently saw the shorter one, and honestly, the only reason I didn’t watch it all in one day was because I started it too late yesterday for it to be mathematically possible for me to do so. There’s a lot more I could be saying about this film, but a lot of it I’m not fully certain I’d be able to really put down into words; there’s an ethereal beauty to what The Best of Youth does, and I’ll happily join the chorus of people that’s arisen in recommending that more people experience it for themselves.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10

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