May 26, 2011 / Filmwell
Kenji Koiso has his summer vacation all planned out: he and his friend Sakuma have …
November 13, 2014
Me and You is a small and quiet return of Bertolucci to the festival circuit. It has been almost a decade since The Dreamers. The film is much less ambitious in scope than most of his prior work. As a result, critics have been very mixed on whether the film eventually works or not. A Guardian reviewer even quipped that the film is ” a good deal less interesting and dramatic than Home Alone.”
But this overly harsh description fails to see the touches of Bertolucci’s earlier work that make Me and You one of this year’s pleasant surprises. A failed back surgery left Bertolucci wheelchair-bound in 2003, which led to such a lengthy silence from the filmmaker. Touches of this more confined experience of life may be present in the overall tone of the film, which takes place mainly in the small space of a Roman basement.
Young Lorenzo does not get along with the other kids in school, so he has decided to skip the school’s week long ski trip and hide out in the basement of his mom’s apartment. The film is a study in teenage angst, complete with interludes of Cure and Arcade Fire tracks. But Me and You really begins to gain traction when his older half-sister crashes his basement isolation to withdraw from heroin. Her life is on that brink after which there won’t be anything left but the addiction, and this self-imposed detox is an effort to stave off that final defeat.
Lorenzo and his half-sister don’t know each other very well, they don’t really get along. But in their time together in the darkness of this basement, as Olivia sleeps and shudders through withdrawal, some semblance of family emerges that neither had considered a possibility given the dissolution of their parent’s relationships. This all sounds a little pat, and it is, but the gentleness of Bertolucci’s pacing and composition make even the film’s concluding turn toward Bowie’s “Space Oddity” a welcome gesture of cinema.
Underscoring Lorenzo’s sense of alienation is the increasing drama of this space, cluttered with their family’s castaway furniture and bric-a-brac. Shot in sensuous gradations of light, the smallness of the space takes on a curio vibe – as if Lorenzo and his sister have been painted together into this fragile tableaux. Outside are the stresses of adolescence, Lorenzo’s confused experience of sex and family (this is Bertolucci after all), and Olivia’s life as a successful artist remaining in balance. Again, this is all fairly rote, yet touched with great care by a masterful hand.
Me and You is currently screening at the St. Louis International Film Festival.