A 14-year-old pretends to go on a ski trip, but actually spends the week in isolation in his basement, escaping society's pressure. When his 25-year-old half-sister enters the basement, a few emotional and confronting days and nights ensue. Written by
"I'm stepping through the door. And I'm floating in a most peculiar way. And the stars look very different today." David Bowie, Space Oddity Coming of age can mean many things: sexual awakening, a religious or cultural ritual, or even achieving an academic or artistic goal. In Bernardo Bertolucci's intimate drama, Me and You, however, it is the time when a young man is able to see the world for the first time from a point of view other than his own and learns to give of himself to another human being. Based on a novel by Niccolò Ammaniti, the same author whose novel was the basis for Gabriele Salvatores' 2003 film I'm Not Scared, the film, Bertolucci's first since The Dreamers in 2003 and his first made in Italy in thirty years, is the story of Lorenzo, an isolated fourteen year old boy (Jacopo Olmo Antinori), and Olivia (Tea Falco), his older half-sister, a heroin addict, who inadvertently discover they need each other more than they ever thought possible.
The film opens in the office of a psychiatrist. The first image we see is Lorenzo bent over a chair, prominently displaying his huge mop of black hair while the therapist, confined to a wheelchair (as is Bertolucci), tries to find out what he means when he describes everything as "normal." We never find out what the issues are that led him to the doctor's office, but meeting his overbearing mother, Arianna (Sonia Bergamasco) in the following scene gives us a clue. After telling her at dinner in a restaurant that he wonders whether people are looking at them as lovers because of her youthful appearance, Lorenzo fantasizes out loud about having sex with his mama if they were the sole survivors of a holocaust and needed to repopulate the planet. Embarrassed, she tells him to be quiet but with sort of a glint in her eye.
"If it was a boy, what would you call him?" he asks her but does not get a response. Lorenzo is about to go on a ski trip with his school but it is obvious that he is not keen on the idea, especially when he sees his classmates socializing together outside of the bus. Demanding that his mother drop him off several blocks away so he won't be driving up with his "mommy," it seems as though he has already made up his mind not to go. Using the money given to him for his ski trip, Lorenzo buys enough provisions (including obvious product placements) for seven days.
Carefully avoiding being spotted by the building superintendent, he moves into the hot, crowded basement of his apartment house with his junk food, laptop, an ant farm he purchased for the occasion to keep him company, and a copy of Anne Rice's The Vampire Lestat, translated into Italian. Lorenzo's peace and quiet is soon disturbed, however, when his half-sister Olivia, a former artist and photographer, shows up asking for a place to stay while she tries to kick her drug addiction "cold turkey" in preparation for meeting her lover in the country. Although the affection they first show each other would not make a very good love story, they gradually grow closer as he begins to move beyond his own concerns.
Lorenzo tries to help Olivia get through her heroin withdrawal symptoms, caring about her health while bringing her food and sleeping pills.Through their interaction, he seems to grow in self-confidence and peeks out of his shell to see that there is a world outside of his cocoon. Though there are painful moments, Me and You is not a dark film but one that is brightened by the potential of two damaged souls coming together and experiencing love. Olivia tells him that she is a Buddhist and that the reality is that they are one and only their point of view keeps them apart, a sentiment movingly apparent when they dance together to the David Bowie song Space Oddity, translated into an Italian version.
Me and You is a small film but a lovely one, without clichés or pretensions, a film that draws you into its characters and allows you to feel that you have made some good friends. Apropos of the film's title, Bertolucci takes us all the way from a "me or you" world to one that has a place for "me and you," one that is inclusive and filled with beauty, and in which we know that, for Lorenzo and Olivia, nothing will ever again be "normal."
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