Me and You marks the return of Bernardo Bertolucci as he cozies his way back into the director’s chair. After all, it’s been a decade since audiences caught Bertolucci’s controversial, NC-17 drama The Dreamers.
The filmmaker has toned matters down for Me and You compared to the graphic content in The Dreamers, but his latest is unique in its own way.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say Me and You’s story is a coming of age tale, but it’s awfully close to being categorized as one. Instead, Bertolucci (and three other screenwriters) adapt Niccolò Ammaniti’s novel into a movie that focuses on growth from those who don’t expect it. The film’s eccentric lead learns how to mature throughout the film, yet he still stays true to his unusual personality.
The film doesn’t outright state that Me and You’s Lorenzo (played by Jacopo Olmo Antinori) has Asperger’s syndrome, but his characteristics and quirks hint at the possibilities. Antinori does a fantastic job at portraying these unmentioned idiosyncratic tendencies and perfectly showing his awkwardness in social settings.
It’s that uncomfortableness that motivates Lorenzo’s ruse. His school organizes a skiing trip, and Lorenzo sees this as an opportunity to take a week off of school and get lost. After pocketing the trip money and fooling his Mother into thinking he boarded the bus, Lorenzo sneaks back home and arranges living quarters in the basement using dusty, unused furniture. He’s planning on having his own private vacation.
These sequences of Antinori being sly in ways that the character may have seen in spy movies are a lot of fun to watch, as well as those scenes of Lorenzo fixing up his new digs.
It’s during these moments where Me and You feels especially committed to being whimsical without using a bunch of cutesy clutter intercut during speedy edits. Bertolucci shows a more gleeful side to him with the film’s imagination while also displaying that he fully respects this character who is running by his own agenda. With that, the movie successfully lets the viewer see the world through Lorenzo’s discomposed mind.
There has to be a complication for Lorenzo to face, however, which could possibly spoil his plan. That speed bump comes in the form of his half-sister Olivia (played by Tea Falco). Unamused because his environment has been interrupted by a sudden change, Lorenzo acts out. Olivia gives her half-brother some unpolished news and begs for a place to crash.
Men and You goes from being a movie that has an original look and feel to it, to being a movie that the audience can now somewhat predict. As soon as another misfit was paired with Lorenzo, I could sense the road Bertolucci’s film was going to be traveling on. That feeling made me a little less excited, but it didn’t draw me out of the viewing altogether.
Fortunately, the film is able to lob some surprises at the audience. Movie goers are also exposed to softer sensitive sessions between Olivia and Lorenzo. Olivia’s past with substance abuse and her recent cold turkey process has been kept a secret from Lorenzo’s innocent ears. But, when Olivia’s attitude drastically changes because her vice has been taken away, Lorenzo is forced into an adult role.
The developments both characters embark on are significant, even though the film lacks a cutting edge when it doesn’t know what to do with itself during more subdued scenes. Though the talks in the basement provide plenty of stability for the audience, some anxious movie goers may find themselves sporting an increasing case of cabin fever. If so, a compassionate rendition of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ will surely snap them out of it.
Me and You is a worthy film for Bertolucci to strike back with. Leave it to a filmmaking veteran to lend an engrossing spin on the typical teenage character study that feels all too familiar nowadays.