Marco-Tullio Giordana

(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

7.2 The Best of Youth (2003)

Marco-Tullio Giordana

The six-hour film La Meglio Gioventu`/ The Best of Youth (2003), chronicling three generations of an Italian family, harks back to the heydays of neorealism.

The film begins in the 1960s in Roma. A father tries to communicate with his son Matteo, but Matteo is annoyed by his old-fashioned manners. His other son Nicola is much more friendly. Nicola is also much more interested in girls than Matteo is. He asks their friend Carlo to use his beach house for a date with a girl.
Matteo instead volunteers to take care of a retarded girl who is hospitalized in a clinic. The girl, Giorgia, is hostile and violent.
Back home Matteo finds his parents arguing as usual. His father has decided to mortgage the house in order to invest in his business, and his mother is terrified by the chance that they will lose the house.
Matteo goes out again in the middle of the night. He takes Nicola and two friends to a prostitute's meeting point, marked by a fire in a bucket. Cati forces a reluctant Nicola to have sex with her and tells him that Matteo is strange. Matteo, a very devoted student of Literature, flunks the final examination on religious poetry because he gets annoyed by the conventional wisdom of his professor. He then shows Nicola photos that prove how Giorgia has been subjected to electric shocks in the clinic.
Nicola too is studying for the final examination. He is studying Medicine. His friends Carlo and Berto are studying Philosophy and Economics.
During the night Matteo enters the clinic and kidnaps Giorgia.
The following morning Nicola's elderly professor likes his attitude and gives him a good grade. Then he talks to him like a father and advises him to leave Italy: Italy is a country that is dying.
After the exam, the brothers are ready to leave for a vacation in northern Europe. When Matteo shows up with Giorgia, Nicola changes plans. Matteo and Nicola take the train and begin a journey to find Giorgia a new home. Her father does not want her. An angry Matteo hits him and Giorgia resents it, feeling more comfortable with Nicola. Their older sister Giovanna, who is a lawyer, advised them to deliver Giorgia to an asylum that has the reputation of being more humane, but, while they are waiting for the train, Giorgia is picked up by the police. The brothers cannot do anything. Matteo decides to return home and enroll in the army, while Nicola continues the journey.
Matteo has to shave his hair while Nicola meets some hippies and lets his hair and beard grow. Matteo becomes an asocial element, an overzealous soldier disliked by both his fellow soldiers and his superiors, while Nicola becomes a simpler man, happy to just hitchhike around Norway and neglecting to return to Italy for his studies. Eventually, Nicola runs out of money and finds a job in a sawmill. There he meets a gorgeous blond who invites him to her house and slips into his bed. In the morning, though, she wakes him up with the news that a terrible flood has devastated Firenze, and Nicola travels back to Italy as a volunteer to help the victims. He meets Matteo again, who is dispatched there with the army. He also meets Carlo and Berto again. Most importantly, he meets Giulia, another beautiful girl who changes his life: he decides to follow her to Torino, where she is going to study Mathematics while he will resume his studies, this time in Psychology.
Two years later Giulia has become a leader of the student riots and Nicola is a faithful assistant. Nicola lives with Carlo and a southerner, Vitale. All of them are leftists, involved in anti-capitalistic protests. Nicola and Giulia move in together and she gets pregnant. Matteo, in the meantime, has joined the police corps and is dispatched to fight the students. During a riot the students almost kill his best friend Luigi, a policeman who comes from a very poor family. Matteo loses his temper and almost kills a student. Nicola invites him to meet his girlfriend Giulia, but Giulia hates cops and gets into a heated argument with Matteo. Giulia's daughter Sara is born. Nicola's parents come to visit. The father disapproves that the couple had a baby without having good jobs and without getting married first, but his wife talks him into being nice to them. Still remembering the case of Giorgia, Nicola is helping victims of a mental asylum sue the psychiatrist who tortured them for many years. Giulia, in the meantime, is getting ever more radical in her anticapitalistic views. Nicola's father wants to invest in computers, which are still a novelty in Italy, and Nicola lets him stay a little longer to look for business partners. When the father is not listening, the mother tells Nicola that the old man has cancer. Nicola, trained as a doctor, realizes that his old man has only a few years to live. The father is charming and understanding, and becomes a good friend of Giulia. He thinks that nobody knows about his illness and tells only the older child, Giovanna. Nicola wins his history-making trial against the psychiatrist, and Giovanna is also fighting in court for a good cause, against companies that caused environmental disasters. Giovanna, in turn, confesses that her marriage is over. Nicola is also having problems: Giulia has become aggressive and hostile. Meanwhile Matteo has been transferred to Sicily, where he has to fight the mafia. There he meets an attractive photographer, Mirella, who wants to become a librarian. He gets in trouble again when he loses his temper with a crowd that is admiring the mutilated body of a victim of the mafia: his boss, who obviously does not want overzealous troublemakers, gets Matteo transferred again, this time back to Roma.
Nicola is now in charge of investigating mental asylums. He finds out that an old lady is keeping her patients in the basement, tied up to the beds like animals. One of them is Giorgia, more traumatized than ever. Giulia quit her job and spends all her time planning workers demonstrations with radical communists.
Matteo visits Luigi, who is confined on a wheelchair but is about to get married with a beautiful girl, and learns that his mother has been visiting and helping Luigi all those years. Matteo drives to his parents' place and sees his parents walking down the street, his father clearly ill, but then drives away without talking to them. He then visits Nicola, and meets Giorgia again. That day their father die. Matteo feels remorse that he didn't even say "hi" to the good old man. During the funeral Carlo, now an brilliant economist, falls in love with Nicola's little sister Francesca, and they soon get married. But Giulia gets more and more involved the the communist cell and one night simply leaves Nicola and Sara without a word of explanation. Nicola learns from the television what Giulia was up to: she has carried out a terrorist attack and is now wanted by the police. Nor does Nicola find any consolation is his old friends: Vitale has been laid off by the big company that is "reorganizing", and Carlo defends the decision as inevitable to remain competitive, while Nicola sees it as a cruel act against workers who have no alternative.
One day, out of the blue, Giulia approaches Vitale, now a construction worker, with a message for Nicola: she wants to see her daughter Sara, and promises not to talk to her. On the day that Italy is winning the World Cup of soccer and the entire nation is glued to tv sets and radios, Nicola takes the little Sara to the museum. Giulia sees her daughter, and the child sees her, but doesn't recognize her mother (Nicola doesn't see anything). Giulia walks out in a state of shock. Nicola is a devoted father and raises Sara by himself as best as he can.
Matteo is transferred to Roma. He visits his favorite library and finds out that Mirella followed his advice and got a job there. Mirella still remembers him, and is fascinated by him. Matteo, however, lives secluded, with no friends. Giovanna finds out that he is in the city and comes to yell at him for not visiting their widowed mother. In the evening Matteo picks up a prostitute.
Nicola hears on television that Giulia's terrorist group is still carrying out assassinations. One day Giulia is assigned a new target: it's Carlo, now an important economist. She calls Carlo's wife Francesca to warn her that Carlo must leave the country. Francesca and Carlo now have three children. Francesca knows that Carlo will not leave and begs Francesca to find a way to save his life.
Matteo has a date with Mirella. She is in love but he has become a psycho who cannot deal with human beings anymore. He tells her all sort of lies. He makes love to her only when she wears the necklace that a prostitute left in his car. Then he doesn't show up at the next date. Mirella, devastated, looks for him and eventually finds out that he works at the police. She finds him and confronts him, but he doesn't want to talk to her and insults her.
It's New Year's Eve. The whole family is spending the night together in Roma. Carlo informs Nicola that the terrorists want to kill him, and that he is not willing to run away because it would mean that they won. The family plays a social game. Suddenly, Matteo shows up. Finally his mother sees him again. Matteo feels guilty for how he treated Mirella. He tries to call her but she doesn't pick up. Matteo leaves the family and returns to his home. He tries one more time to call Mirella and then jumps from the window to his death.
Nicola feels guilty that he didn't do anything to stop his brother from becoming suicidal, just like he didn't do anything to stop Giulia from becoming a terrorist. He arranges for the police to capture Giulia. Then he visits her in prison and proposes to her (they never got married). He also forces her to face her daughter Sara. Giulia breaks down but also smiles for the first time in a long time.
Years later, Sara, now a teenager, is bitter towards her mother, and doesn't understand her father's devotion towards the woman who left him. Sara loves her father, who raised her in the Torino apartment where he lived with her mother, but she has decided to move to Roma with Carlo and Francesca.
One day Nicola accidentally sees the poster of an exhibition of photography: it's a photo of his brother Matteo taken by Mirella. He shows it to Giorgia, who is now almost completely healed but still refuses to leave the mental asylum. Giorgia begs Nicola to look for the photographer and talk to her. Nicola is reluctant, and instead begs Giorgia to leave the mental asylum and start living a normal life. Each one bends to the will of the other. Nicola travels to Sicily in order to meet with Mirella.
Just then Nicola learns that a judge has been killed by the mafia in Sicily. His sister Giovanna is now a high-ranking judge and is in charge of the investigation. They briefly meet there before Nicola has his appointment with Mirella. Mirella tells him that she had a child from Matteo but never had a chance to tell him that she was pregnant. Nicola talks his mother into visiting Mirella, and the grandma falls in love with her grandson to the point that Mirella invites her to stay and live with them. Nicola leaves them in Sicily and returns to his work in Torino.
Giulia is released from prison and goes to see (unseen) Sara one more time before disappearing again. Mirella writes to Nicola that his mother died and goes to visit the grave. During the vacation in Sicily he and Mirella fall in love. Mirella invites him to stay, but Nicola is not ready. Carlo and Francesca have a new house built in Toscana by Vitale, who is now the owner of a construction company. Sara is about to get married to a nice boy. Her mother writes to her that she is trying to start a new life and does not want to be a nuisance. Her father tells Sara that it's time for her to forgive. Sara surprises her mother, who is still a ghost of a woman (and a lonely one), with a sudden visit and treats her like an old friend. Encouraged by Carlo and Vitale, Nicola takes Mirella for a walk in the countryside and they finally kiss.
The film's most notable elements are the portraits, especially the good-natured and generous Nicola and the tormented and eternally unhappy Matteo.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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