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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Tim Roth
Matt Damon
Alexandra Maria Lara
Bruno Ganz
Andre Hennicke.
Directors
Francis Ford Coppola.
Screenwriters
Francis Ford Coppola.
Running Time
125 minutes

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Youth Without Youth
Coppola’s a butterfly dreaming he’s a Nazi. Or something


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Plot
Bucharest, 1938. Dominic Matei (Roth) is struck by lightning and comes out of bandages a much younger man, with paranormal abilities. After the War, he meets the apparent reincarnation of his lost love (Lara), also struck by lightning and possessed by a medieval Indian woman.


Review
Youth Without Youth
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Francis Ford Coppola’s first film in nearly a decade is one of his periodic attempts to find himself in a modestly-budgeted, non-studio production. More sincere and interesting than the professional jobs (Jack, The Rainmaker, etc) he took in the 1990s, it’s profoundly weird and faintly dull at the same time. 

Based on a novella by the philosopher Mircea Eliade, Youth Without Youth is just what you get if a creator is more interested in ideas than story or character. Eliade deploys a lot of mystic and sci-fi elements - in some ways, it’s a magic-realist take on X-Men or Unbreakable - but Coppola’s script compounds the author’s impatient sloppiness when it comes to making actual sense or tying things together in a satisfying manner. 

A current film mini-trend (see also Be Kind, Rewind) is the notion that enormous jolts of electricity won’t kill you, but will bestow magical powers that set up whimsical plotting. Here, it is theorised that the electrified, reborn, super-powered Dominic Matei might be a mutant man of the future - which sets up a too-brief mid-section offering near-pulp thrills with serial-style Nazi characters (Alexandra Pirici as a SS pin-up, André Hennicke as a mad scientist with an impressive but underused electrical laboratory) and an Allied spy recruiter (a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Matt Damon). Then, in the second half, the whole thing collapses as the hero hooks up with another lightning-struck character, who can either offer him personal happiness or die while helping him complete his life’s work by gabbling in a succession of dead languages (“It’s Sumerian - no, Babylonian”). Meanwhile, Matei’s mirror-self sometimes manifests to argue with him (and even be seen by others) then cues a coda which jumps the tracks again and cops plot developments from The Picture Of Dorian Gray.

This offers a lot of interesting material, but Coppola has become one of those creators who can’t take any advice. There are a few flashes of astonishing cinema here, but far more sequences so clumsy you’d think they were shot by a neophyte. Crucially, Roth and Lara, who are individually fine, don’t produce any electricity when they are together, which means that the post-War half of the film fritters away all the goodwill until we reach a grumpy, elderly git’s apotheosis. 


Verdict
Not quite a complete write-off, but basically a folly.


Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Youth Without Youth
Empire Star Rating

familiar

Coppola like his old mate George Lucas are exactly the same. Wealthy old story-tellers who got lucky in their youth directing, only to get and old and lazy and feel they can push out any old shit. They havent made anything resembling quality in 20 years. To call them hollywood royalty is like calling liverpool the best football club in England...and I am a Liverpool fan. Just spare a thought for the fans when you taint your legacy ...PLEASE! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Samurai7 at 15:21, 16 May 2011 | Report This Post


boring

to be honest, i thought it was utter shite, a boring, sensless take on a possibly epic story, i admire tim roth as an actor and a family friend, but his role in this is shite compared to made in britain and reservoir dogs, and possibly the hulk ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mozzaman at 22:39, 18 February 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Youth Without Youth

It was released in the U.K. about 3 weeks ago, it was only showing in 2 or 3 cinemas in the whole of London, don't know about the rest of the country. ... More

Posted by Indio at 16:49, 06 January 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Youth Without Youth

Is this film actually out? It's not showing anywhere near me and I really want to see it.  Sounds a little like The Fountain. ... More

Posted by Dr Lenera at 16:01, 06 January 2008 | Report This Post


Youth Without Youth

Thought it was pretty poor, especially coming from the maker of films such as The Godfather, Apocalypse Now and The Conversation. Far too many ideas were forced in and then ignored or resolved in an unsatisfactory manner (the Nazis, the completion of his life work, his 'super powers') and it took far too long to get to a conclusion that wasn't worth sitting through the previous two hours for. There was also far too much dull expositionary talk, particularly between Dominic and his alter ego tha... More

Posted by Indio at 12:49, 20 December 2007 | Report This Post


RE: what?

its not b-grade toshy material its romanian literature studied in highschool and college and the movie plot and storyline doesnt have almost anything to do with the movie :| ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bizu08 at 20:35, 19 December 2007 | Report This Post


RE: what?

Francis Coppola's first directorial effort in over a decade. This one actually got pretty hammered in the reviews: apart from the NY Times, most called it an amateurish mess, pretentious, baffling, faux arty and generally rubbish. I went in expecting the worst. I came out very happily surprised, while acknowledging all of those criticisms. I sincerely think that it's been unfairly criticised, mostly by those to whom comprehension of a film's subject matter and plot are a prerequisite fo... More

Posted by Lightfoot at 19:24, 17 December 2007 | Report This Post


what?

sci fi elements? authors impatient sloppiness? have you even read the book? its full name is youth without oldness and life without death its a fairy tale with a evil main character (or at least he doesnt have any moral values or something like that) stop critisizing the author you moron and why is the movie considered exelent by critics all over europe? maybe because its a little more deeper than you could understand ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bizu08 at 20:41, 12 December 2007 | Report This Post


what?

sci fi elements? authors impatient sloppiness? have you even read the book? its full name is youth without oldness and life without death its a fairy tale with a evil main character (or at least he doesnt have any moral values or something like that) stop critisizing the author you moron and why is the movie considered exelent by critics all over europe? maybe because its a little more deeper than you could understand ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bizu08 at 20:41, 12 December 2007 | Report This Post


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