Over the course of a 50 year career, legendary Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci has made films both deeply political and personal, often combining the two. His latest, Me and You, which premiered at Cannes last year, is his first film since 2003’s The Dreamers and displays a light, youthful touch.
The main protagonist is 14-year-old Lorenzo, an introverted, slightly eccentric boy who lives with his mother, visits a psychotherapist, has OCD quirks about buying seven of every item when grocery shopping, and is generally more interested in his ant colony than socialising with others his age.
When a school skiing trip is organised, Lorenzo’s mother is delighted that her son is set to take part in a more normative teenage activity, but Lorenzo has other plans. Preferring nothing more than being alone, he fakes going on the trip but in fact spends the week in the basement of their apartment building. It’s a perfect plan, only he wasn’t counting on his estranged half-sister Olivia showing up out of the blue with nowhere to stay.
Olivia, an aspiring artist in her mid-20s, is a heroin-addict going cold turkey, and ending shacked up together in an unused cellar for a week was not what either had in mind, yet they will develop a close bond, not quite as siblings nor as friends but more as two outcasts together against the world.
Though it touches on dark issues such as drug addiction and teenage loneliness, Me and You never gets especially dark in tone. In co-adapting the screenplay from a novel by Niccolò Ammaniti (who was the other co-writer), Bertolucci has stated that he removed some of the gloomier elements from the book. The end result, with its characters shielded off from the outside world in a bubble-like interior setting where they will learn more about themselves, brings to mind some of his earlier films, especially Last Tango in Paris and The Dreamers, but saying much less about either politics or sexuality.
While it’s understandable that at this stage in his career, and after a bad accident which left him wheelchair-bound, Bertolucci looks to restrict his canvas in scale, the film still can’t help but feel a little slender, particularly when it is inevitably compared alongside his masterpieces. But that is not to say that Me and You doesn’t have lots of charm, as well as two touching performances from the lead characters, notably from debutant Jacopo Olmo Antinori as Lorenzo. The soundtrack also adds to the film’s youthful spirit, ranging from Muse and Arcade Fire, to The Cure and David Bowie. Overall Me and You is somewhat of a sweet coming-of-age story for Lorenzo, and a welcome return to our screens for a master filmmaker.
Me and You: ★★★
Io e te
Dir: Bernardo Bertolucci