The Carati Skid Across History

“The Best of Youth” takes about six hours long to watch. And since it is an Italian film, it is also six hours of reading English subtitles. I didn’t recognize any of the actors. I don’t even remember if it came out in the theaters. Was there even a trailer for this? I don’t know. I’m unhappy to report that “The Best of Youth” is neither a sequel nor a sequel of a sequel. It’s neither based on some TV show nor some comic book nor some video game. It does unfold like a thick novel, spanning four decades of epic storytelling immersed in Italian history. And oh yeah, did I mention it’s six hours long?

If you’ve read this far, then I’m afraid I have some bad news. I don’t think you’re real. I’ve built that first paragraph with a wall of words to prevent people from coming this far. Considering that my readers are measly few, the odds of you still reading is imaginary. From here onward, I shall call you my figment of my imagination (FOMI).

Dear FOMI,

I’m so glad to tell you a wonderful secret. Let’s be selfish and keep it to ourselves, shall we? I invested so much time and courage in renting “The Best of Youth.” If I go about proclaiming my praise for the movie, then the next viewer would watch it without the qualms I had. No, that seems not fair. Let them. Let them discover it for themselves. So many great things are missed in this world, simply because they’re daunting in appearance. I believe “The Best of Youth” is one of those things. It’s a wonderful reward awaiting those who expand beyond the mainstream fare.

Still thinking about the six hours? Well, I’ll be honest. The weakest part is the first hour. It takes awhile to settle. But be patient, FOMI. A tad of patience goes a long way. Once it hooks you, it’s irresistible and it gets better by the hour. Although it’s possible to see all six hours in one sitting, there’s no need to. I watched this movie in segments in the span of three wonderful days. Maybe it’s my way of prolonging the experience, instead of quickly burning it off in day’s quarter.

“The Best of Youth” chronicles two Carati brothers named Nicola (Luigi Lo Cascio) and Matteo (Alessio Boni). Nicola is affable. Matteo is more restrained, but also temperamental. We meet their family, their friends, their lovers, and a special person destined to be in their lives. At the same time, their story threads are finely weaved into Italian history. Some characters take part in the Hippie culture, the flood relief in Florence, and other tumultuous events. The movie also functions as some visual travelogue, visiting places such as Rome, Florence, Turin, Palermo, and even Norway. Its scope in time (1960s – 2003) and place is truly remarkable. But its scale in human drama is its crowning achievement. I haven’t been this engrossed by so many characters in a single movie. By the time the sixth hour rolled around, I seriously didn’t want the movie to end.

Indeed, my reaction surprised me. “The Best of Youth” seems unreal for a cinematic encounter. Maybe that’s why I’m writing to you, FOMI. You must know of these unreal things. I don’t know anybody whom I can recommend this to. How can I speak honestly about it without appearing crazy? Six hours! Who would watch a movie of six hours? Maybe I’d convince them in another way:

“The Best of Youth” is like three great movies put together, but with greater cumulative impact.

Would that sell it, FIMO? Maybe not. Let’s keep it a secret. Let them. Let them miss it.

Grade: A+

Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessio Boni, Adriana Asti, Sonia Bergamasco, Fabrizio Gifuni, Maya Sansa, Valentina Carnelutti, and Jasmine Trinca
Screenplay by
Sandro Petraglia
Stefano Rulli
Directed by
Marco Tullio Giordana
Rated R for language and brief nudity