The Italy-set story centers on a pimply faced 14-year-old misfit named Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori), who ditches a school ski trip and secretly settles into a basement unit just floors below the apartment he shares with his mother (Sonia Bergamasco).
There, with junk-food rations, a laptop and an ant farm, he looks forward to a week of solitude. But his 25-year-old half-sister, Olivia (Tea Falco), intending to use the basement space to kick her heroin habit, bursts in and disrupts his plan.
As Olivia’s detox intensifies, self-absorbed Lorenzo finds himself feeling serious concern for another human being. The weeklong encounter inspires both characters to start believing in themselves.
Compared to the ambitious, multilayered and provocative political and sexual dramas for which Bertolucci is known (“The Conformist,” “1900,” “Last Tango in Paris”), the film amounts to mere brushstrokes. The Lorenzo-Olivia interactions could use more force and depth. The psychological welfare of Lorenzo, whose emergence into daylight Bertolucci deems deserving of a “400 Blows”-style freeze frame, never seems truly at stake.
Still this is a winning tale of connection and caring. Displaying his bent for depicting growing pains, and efficiently working a tight space for emotional effect, Bertolucci captures the restlessness of youth and the importance of braving the world.
Rich-looking 35mm camerawork, along with Bertolucci’s ability to score mood points from pop music that real teens would deem prehistoric, enhances the picture. A scene in which Lorenzo and Olivia dance to “Space Oddity,” David Bowie’s 1969 isolation classic, is particularly fine in this regard.
Me and You
Starring Jacopo Olmo Antinori, Tea Falco, Sonia Bergamasco
Written by Niccolo Ammaniti, Umberto Contarello, Francesca Marciano, Bernardo Bertolucci
Running time 1 hour, 37 minutes