La meglio gioventú (2003)

La meglio gioventú (the best of youth) is an epic story about two brothers, their family and their friends against the background of the Italian history.

We meet them in the sixties. Both Nicola and Matteo are studying at university and the family has especially high expectations of Matteo. Both brothers want to go to the Northcape to see life outside of Italy.

Matteo volunteers in a psychiatric hospital and meets patient Giorgia. Psychiatric care was not very good in Italy in those days and Matteo cares for the girl. Nicola also gets involved and both decide to take the girl out of the hospital to bring her home. Unfortunately this does not go according to plan and Giorgia is taken back to the institution.
Giorgia and Matteo, when they first meet
For Matteo this is a breaking-point. He decides to drop out of university, to not go with his brother to Norway, but to join the army instead.
Nicola is furious and goes to Norway on his own, but he returns to Italy when a flood threatens the city of Florence to help with the rescue-work and here he meets Matteo again who is in Florence with the army to help.
Matteo and Nicola in Florence in 1966

Nicola also meets here the love of his life, Giulia. He now stays in Italy and studies medicine, to become a psychiatrist. Giulia and he are involved in the student protest-movement, but where Nicola is getting more serious about his work and reforming the psychiatric system, Giulia is getting more radical and eventually even leaves Nicola and their daughter to join the Red Brigades.

Matteo in the meantime has left the army and has become a policeman. He is not a happy man. The structure of the army and the police force give him some peace of mind and in his free time he can read all the books he wants, but he does not feel connected to his family and the world around him.
This changes when he meets the photographer Mirella, but Matteo is convinced this happiness will not last and makes a decision that will impact everyone who knows him.

We follow both brothers, the family and their friends from the sixties up to the end of the century. All important moment in Italian history are there, through the eyes of the experiences of the people we get to know so well.

The flood in Florence in 1966, the student protests of 1968, the years of led, the Red Brigades, the mass unemployment at FIAT, the reforms in the psychiatric care and much more. These defining moments are never the main focus, but we get to know about them through the characters. That is why it is never boring and why it never feels like you are watching a documentary.

The same actors play the characters in 1965 and in 2000 and this is done really well, you can see the characters age and act and walk different than they did before, their age but also their experiences changes them.

La meglio gioventú is almost 6 hours, and for me, this is not a problem. For me, this is one of the most beautiful films ever made, and the whole 6 hours I am glued to the screen, watching these excellent actors play their parts, no become the people they  portray.

Alessio Boni as Matteo is my favorite, he knows to give Matteo something so broken and so fragile, yet so frustrated and angry at the same time, that my heart breaks for him. The last 1 ½ hour of the film I cannot watch without crying.
Other amazing actors are Luigi di Cascio as Nicola, Sonia Bergamasco as Giulia and Jasmine Trinca as Giorgia. I also really liked Maya Sansa as Mirella, and I wished things could have worked out for her and Matteo.

So, if you haven’t seen this film yet, do not get frightened by the fact it is almost 6 hours long, but just watch it, enjoy it and submerge yourself.