The latest Francis Ford Coppola project is a wordy, two-hour film that feels like four
Cast: Tim Roth, Alexandra Maria Lara, Bruno Ganz
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Script: Francis Ford Coppola
In six words: Too much theme, too little plot.
That’s Francis Ford Coppola’s latest work in a nutshell, the story of Dominic Mattei (Tim Roth), an elderly linguistics professor who lost the love of his life as a young man, and who’ll never finish the book he’s dedicated his entire career to. He decides to commit suicide, but an opportune lighting strike makes him young again, and grants him superhuman powers. Now the young old man will be able to finish his research, with the help of an evil doppelganger who pops up at tricky moments to offer advice. Incidentally, that brief summary covers only the movie’s first half, before Dominic falls in love with a young woman identical to his lost love. Another lightning bolt grants her the ability to channel a woman who speaks older and older languages, but who suffers and ages with each new trance. What a fiasco!
Youth Without Youth is built around themes extremely difficult to explore in drama, and Coppola falls short absolutely. It’s a two-hour marathon that feels like four, chock-full of endless dialogues and monologues in which characters postulate, question, explain and debate. The plot weaves between one session and the next, and alternates between maudlin melodrama and incomprehensible science fiction.
Now, there is one positive factor to point out: Roth is an exceptional actor. He invests himself in the role completely, articulating the inner life and sincere emotion of a character made human.