Me and You (2013)
Editor’s Note: Me and You opens at TIFF Bell LightBox this Friday, June 27th, 2014!
Art house cinema has a long history of depicting the trials and tribulations of angst-ridden teenagers rebelling against a confusing world. Films like François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows carefully chronicle the inexplicable indignation of its central character. But whereas Truffaut’s film creates a nuanced character study of troubled adolescence, a film like Bernardo Bertolucci’s Me and You (which owes a large debt to The 400 Blows) only musters up a superficial portrait of a detached teenager.
“But whereas Truffaut’s film creates a nuanced character study of troubled adolescence… Me and You (which owes a large debt to The 400 Blows) only musters up a superficial portrait of a detached teenager.”
Me and You follows Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori), an angry 14-year-old who relishes in his isolation and openly embraces his status as a social outcast. Lorenzo spends his days being bullied by his classmates, and devotes his nights to lashing out at his mother. In order to escape this vicious routine, Lorenzo hatches a plan to spend a week hiding in his building’s basement (under the guise of being on a school skiing trip). When his half-sister, Olivia (Tea Falco), discovers him in the basement, Lorenzo’s idyll comes to an end and he must return to a reality that requires more than his routine detachment.
The 73-year-old Bertolucci struggles to connect with his teenage subject. Though the film tries to connect to Lorenzo’s youth by featuring songs from Arcade Fire, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Cure, and David Bowie, Me and You fails to get inside its central character. The problem is that Lorenzo is less of an angst-ridden teen and more of an abstraction of what Bertolucci thinks a teenager is. As a result of this detachment between the director and the character, Bertolucci can only observe Lorenzo from a distance as the teenager reads Interview with a Vampire and stares at an ant farm.
“The problem is that Lorenzo is less of an angst-ridden teen and more of an abstraction of what Bertolucci thinks a teenager is.”
Even Lorenzo’s relationship to Olivia – which is the film’s only narrative/emotional pull – comes across more as a series of incidents rather than a developing relationship. The two seem to grow closer more out of spatial relations (primarily because they are stuck in the basement) than out of emotional growth. They are underdeveloped characters whose superficial relationship barely resonates with the audience.
Me and You is less a story about a teenager reconnecting with the world and more a story of an aging director failing to connect with a younger generation. Bertolucci’s stylistic prowess is still admirable (as evidenced by an early dream sequence involving Lorenzo looking at his parents through a skylight), but this creative flame is smothered immediately and the film devolves into a series of scenes that amount to very little. Even when Bertolucci openly pays homage to The 400 Blows, he inadvertently reveals the film’s flaws by comparing his work to a far superior masterpiece.
Unfortunately, Me and You is emptiness yearning for profundity. The film is about an old man dreaming of youth, but failing to narrate that dream into a compelling story. It is like looking at a faded color photo that was left out in the sun: you can make out what the picture was trying to depict, but any distinguishing characteristics and provocative imagery have long since faded.
Me and You tries to depict the angst of adolescence, but fails to tap into its underdeveloped central character.