Lorenzo: Yeah, I think it would be fun to do it again.
It’s been almost a decade since Italian director, Bernardo Bertolucci, has directed a film, and his last film, THE DREAMERS, was rather unremarkable, to say the least. From what I recall, a sexy Michael Pitt meets a brother and sister and begins a relationship with them, a coming of age story set against 1960’s Paris. While I remember the eroticism and stark colours used in the film, there isn’t much else that appealed to me when I saw it. Some may disagree, but I have always thought STEALING BEAUTY to be his best work; yes, that means I place it far and above LAST TANGO IN PARIS. There was something incredibly beautiful about a young and naive Liv Tyler discovering her family history as well as who she is as a woman, set in a beautiful Italian background.
Bertolucci’s new film, ME AND YOU shares a lot of thematic elements as many of his other films. At it’s very heart it is a coming of age story of a young boy, who, like many of us, is trying to figure out who he is and what he wants form his life, even if that is just to be left alone for a little while.
14 year old Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori) seems to be struggling with his adolescent emotions, both at home dealing with his mother, and the demanding social scene of high school. He retreats into his music, books, just wanting to be alone. When his class plans to go on a ski trip, he decides instead to hide out in the basement of his apartment building among his family’s dusty, stowed away treasures. He goes grocery shopping for the week, buying seven of everything, purchases an ant farm, packs his bags and snowboard and convinces him mom to let him out not far from where the bus is picking up the students. He travels back to his apartment, dodging the concierge and shuts himself in, locking away the world outside to get peace and quiet from whatever he is hiding from.
His solo stay-cation is quickly brought to an end when his 25-year-old, half-sister Olivia (Tea Falco) shows up unannounced and is looking for a place to hide for a few days. Threatened that she might snitch on him, he lets her stay in his makeshift abode while she figures out her next plan. The siblings are of course typical in their bickering and rivalry, but as any two people locked away form the world might do, they eventually come to understand one another in a subtle way. There are no great revelations here, no grand dramatic situations, but slowly the film reveals little glimpses of who these two characters are.
The film ends seemingly without a resolution, that both characters are perhaps only slightly better than before they locked themselves in the basement, but there is a glimmer of hope which makes for a strong and satisfying ending. That glimmer only comes as a smile, and a look towards us, the audience, as if to say “you were there too, and I knew you were” and there is hope there.
This is Antinor’s debut film as an actor, and he completely won me over. His angst-ridden teenage outbursts are realistic, something we can all watch and say “I’ve been there”. It never seems awkward and perhaps he is just a teenager doing exactly what it is teenagers do, but he does it very well on screen all the same. His child-like view of the world is exemplified by his fascination with bugs and reptiles and the way he questions his sister but also seems to understand her is a surprising approach from the script that shows his maturity just waiting to emerge.
While the slow pace of the film does begin to weigh down at times, the beauty that Bertolucci is known for shines through from beginning to end, almost carrying the entire film. The deep, rich colours fill every frame beautifully, and the shadows cast among the rooms and on faces make every shot look like the most perfect image. When Olivia wakes in the middle of the night and complains that she is hungry, she and Lorenzo sneak into his apartment where his mother (Sonia Bergamasco) is asleep on the couch in front of the TV. The blue light from the screen fills the entire room and all three characters are illuminated in a beautiful hue that that stands out in direct contrast to the many other yellow and red shots in the film.
Most importantly, Bertolucci doesn’t coddle his broken characters; the story just lets them be who they are, away form the pressures of the outside world on their shoulders. This isn’t new for Bertolucci either, many of his films occur inside of a fish tank, a claustrophobic setting that only involves the people on screen and very little to do with anyone else. And while it may not be a bold new step for the director, it is an approach he knows very well, and it he makes it work to his advantage in ME AND YOU.