Me And You

Me And You

*****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Approaching Bertolucci's first film for ten years is a nerve-racking experience. The expectations are so high, the fear of having hope dashed so great; with such a tremendous legacy to live up to, can the great director really produce something fresh, something worthy of this belated comeback?

Efforts to emulate past grandeur are often doomed to fail. Wisely - and, to an extent, unexpectedly - Bertolucci has done something qute different. In Me And You he returns to the intense intimacy of his most powerful works but drops most of their elegant visual trappings. Here we spend most of our time confined to a grimy basement with just two characters - sullen teenager Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori) and his junkie half sister Olivia (Tea Falco).


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Lorenzo is, by any standards, a remarkable boy. Faced with the propect of going on a skiing trip with his school, he instead pockets the money, buys provisions, and settles down to live secretly in the basement of his family's apartment complex for the next week. He has his music, his laptop, an ant farm and an Italian language copy of The Vampire Lestat to occupy him. He's introverted, comfortable in this small space; but then Olivia arrives like a vampire, making threats, begging to be let in. The two haven't seen each other in years. She proceeds to go cold turkey. Vomiting on her elegant clothes, she's dreaming of a better life. He, despite his fury at her invasion, seems to be on the verge of falling in love.

The strength of the story is as much about what doesn't happen as what does, about silences as much as words. The two young actors look rough, unpolished, yet both convey a kind of beauty. A rare three dimensional addict character, Olivia has secrets that surprise both the boy and the audience, potential too often overlooked. For Lorenzo, it's a coming of age tale, but just as he comes to terms with new responsibiliies he is encouraged to let go of his familiar, orderly way of doing things. Being an adult, it's implied, can also mean knowing when to act on impulse.

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Confidently acted and beautifully observed, this is a masterclass in small-scale filmmaking. Though centered in grim spaces that echo Olivia's torment, it's shot through with luminous imagery, enlivened by inventive set dressing that obliquely connects the tawdry with the divine. The few outdoor scenes show that Bertolucci has lost none of his gift for working with light, and reflections in particular reveal tremendous skill whilst layering information the viewer is scarcely aware of at the time. Everything here is meticulously planned yet the effect is of something effortless. Perhaps it is because he waited until fully mastering new technology that Bertolucci made us wait so long. It blends in seamlessly with the traditional aspects of his art.

Like the reflections, the story reveals unexpected depth in its treatment of illusions. A small, well-intentioned gesture near the end is a stab to the heart. Like Olivia - though less consciously so - Lorenzo is out of his depth; but like her, he is coming to life, emerging from a state in which nothing really touched him. Perhaps he will no longer need the therapist who has been asking him to define what is normal. Nothing is merely normal, the film seems to say - or nothing needs to be. Feel the music. Make up your own words.

Reviewed on: 21 Apr 2013
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An introverted teenager forges a bond with his step-sister as he hides out in his family's basement.
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Director: Bernardo Bertolucci

Writer: Niccolò Ammaniti, Bernardo Bertolucci, Niccolò Ammaniti, Umberto Contarello, Francesca Marciano

Starring: Tea Falco, Jacopo Olmo Antinori, Sonia Bergamasco, Veronica Lazar, Tommaso Ragno, Pippo Delbono, Francesca De Martini

Year: 2012

Runtime: 103 minutes

Country: Italy


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