THE TITLE of Paolo Sorrentino's new film is a bit of obvious misdirection. Make no mistake: Youth is about getting hella old, and to its credit, it makes becoming creaky and gray look like it's maybe not the worst thing in the world. It helps that composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) and film director Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) have been hugely successful in their work—their moneyed lifestyles permit them an extended visit at the incredibly plush Swiss spa where almost all of Youth is set. The two friends spend their time receiving massages, lounging in mineral springs, sauntering through the Alpine countryside, and comparing notes on their daily urination yields.
Sorrentino is the remarkable Italian director who elevated 2013's The Great Beauty—a film similarly preoccupied with aging—from a sensuous pageant into a metaphysical experience. Youth has a bit more on its mind than that masterpiece did, and Sorrentino fumbles with some of the heavier topics this time around. It'll depend on the individual viewer whether the film's refusal to unilaterally condemn its jet-setting bourgeois characters is a weakness or strength, but I thought the film's sympathy allowed the movie to breathe. Youth's elegiac tone is thoughtful, and the camera's rapturous love for its subjects is something to behold.