When you are widely regarded as a master of modern cinema and are getting up there in years, you are more or less permitted to direct at your own pace. With his first directorial effort since 2003’s “The Dreamers”; Bernardo Bertolucci returns with “Me & You” which is a nice idea that just feels a little outside of this director’s wheelhouse as it never quite manages to resonate in any substantial way.
Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori), a 14-year-old loner who has difficult relationships with his parents and peers, decides to take a break from it all by hiding out in his building’s neglected basement where for an entire week he will finally avoid all conflict and pressure to be a “normal” teenager. However, an unexpected visit from Lorenzo’s older half-sister Olivia (Tea Falco) changes everything. A worldly 25-year-old beauty, her problematic and fragile state upsets Lorenzo’s total escape from reality, and their forced cohabitation in the basement’s confined space brings forth old resentments, but also a need for affection and intimacy. A few emotional tumultuous days and nights will inspire Lorenzo to see the world through new eyes and at least not try to be as high strung as he once was.
In the hands of a different director this may have clicked a little more but “Me & You” just felt a little too understated and slight for it to be something that will genuinely stay with you.
Bertolucci who co-wrote the material with the source author and two other writers simply had a few too many cooks in the kitchen as it was trying a little too hard to manufacture conflict and set up whatever scenarios the narrative required. It was a small, but neatly crafted little film but as it was mostly just Lorenzo and Olivia talking, it was hard to get invested in any of the proceedings. There just wasn’t enough that was established before the film locks us in the basement for the better part of the proceedings, and while trying to be slight with things can serve a purpose, it’s a double edged sword as a narrative can a little too vague to quickly when you are trying to leave too much to inference and to situation.
While I can totally buy into this situation as someone who used to be a brisk and socially awkward teenager himself, it would have helped this story if we had actually liked this kid. In what was his very first on screen credit, Jacopo Olmo Antinori nailed the ticks of being a dysfunctional teen but as we were never given a reason to care about him or give a damn about wanting to spend the week alone, any work he does tends to get wasted. Tea Falco as the high strung drug addled sister from this broken home just feels a little forced and overly dramatic. She has good chemistry Antinori but so much of their unique characters traits and issues feel like forced drama…LIKE they are acting, which in a movie is never really a good thing.
At the end of the day, “Me & You” was a nice idea but it feels like the result of some mismanagement and not having the best grasp on the material, as we needed more motivation and background for these two being in the basement since the movie played it just a little too thinly for it to hit home.
2 out of 5 stars.
“Me & You” is now playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox here in downtown Toronto, please check with listings for show times.