I like to imagine Bernardo Bertolucci and Roman Polanski have had fist fights over who likes apartments more. While Polanski is probably the master of the apartment-set almost-a-play film, Bertolucci has a similar passion for such intimate surroundings, playing them more for familial or romantic drama than the psychological thrillers of the paranoid Pole.
In his latest film, his first since 2003’s The Dreamers, Bertolucci once again looks at apartment-bound siblings, thankfully steering (narrowly) clear of the incest that helped undermine the prior film.
Me and You follows frustrated, angry 14-year-old Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori), who feeling unhappy at school and over-mothered at home, decides to spend some time in isolation to stew in his adolescent ire. When a school skiing trip leaves for a week, he tells his mother he is going on it, but secretly moves himself into his family’s storage room in the basement of his building.
Lorenzo is enjoying his pressure-free time of reading, listening to music and gazing at an ant farm when his estranged half-sister unexpectedly shows up needing somewhere to stay. A sexually charged artsy 20-something, Olivia (Tea Falco) still harbours a grudge against Lorenzo’s mother for “stealing” their father away from her and her mother. She is also coming down from a serious heroin addiction, and decides to use Lorenzo’s closet of solitude as her cold turkey pit stop.
As the two demi-siblings bond over their shared confinement and interests in music, Lorenzo must help Olivia as her condition worsens. He begins to go stir crazy, acting like a caged armadillo he saw in a pet shop, while the ants escape their confinement following an accident. Soon however, both brother and sister learn important life lessons about facing up to your demons. If only a week were all that took…
Drawn out but never quite boring, Me and You is held together by its two strong performances. Antinori in particular deserves credit for both playing and looking like a believable teen. His spot-riddled face and grungy would-be moustache make him look like an everyday reality almost never seen on-screen. His body language – bowed head and hunched soldiers – is utterly convincing.
The film however is not as convincing, and while the slightly flirty relationship between brother and sister never escalates beyond horseplay, the lingering threat that it might makes much of the film more uncomfortable viewing than it might have been in the hands of another filmmaker. It looks great throughout (although the repeated establishing shots of the building to let us know if it’s day or night frustrate), and the soundtrack (The Cure, Arcade Fire, and David Bowie track sung in Italian) make a pleasant accompaniment.
A film about the prisons we find ourselves in, literal or figurative, self-inflicted or otherwise, Me and You is a passable drama that hardly scratches at the greatness of Bertolucci’s best work, such as The Conformist. The ending, with visual echoes of Les Quatre Cents Coups, suggests Bertolucci and co-screenwriter Niccolò Ammaniti felt this was a far more important project than it has proved to be. With Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor rearing its head once more at Cannes this year in a new 3D restoration, Me and You is unlikely to register in the director’s canon. Sadly it’s clear to see why.
(originally published at http://www.filmireland.net)