(director/writer: Felix van Groeningen/Charlotte Vandermeersch; screenwriter: based on the novel by Paolo Cognetti; cinematographer: Ruben Impens; editor: Nico Leunen; music: Daniel Norgren; cast: Luca Marinelli (Pietro Guasti), Elena Lietti (Francesca Guasti), Alessandro Borghi (Bruno Wilhelmina), Cristano Sassella (Bruno, as a child), Elisabetta Mazzullo (Lara), Filippo Timi (Giovanni Guasti), Francesco Palmobelli (Bruno, as a teenager), Andrea Palma (Peter, as a teenager); Runtime: 147; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Louis Tisne, Hans Everaert, Mario Gianani, Lorenzo Gangarossa; Janus Films; 2022-Italy, Belgium, France, UK-in Italian, English, Nepali, with English subtitles)

“The story does not climb to any great heights, but at least does not fall off the mountain.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The slow-moving drama is set in the Italian Alps, in the fictional village of Grana, in the Aosta Valley. It’s a story about friendship and self-discovery, that’s based on the award-winning Italian bestseller from 2016 “Le Otto Montagne” by Paolo Cognetti. It’s delicately written and directed by a husband and wife team of Belgian filmmakers, Felix van Groeningen (“Beautiful Boy”/”The Broken Circle Breakdown”) and Charlotte Vandermeersch, in her directorial debut. It’s overlong, lacks action and offers little to ponder, but it beautifully photographs the views of the Alpine mountains.

In 1984, two 12-year-old boys, the nerdy, bookish Pietro (Luca Marinelli as an adult) and the nature lover, mountain boy Bruno (Alessandro Borghi as an adult), meet that summer when Pietro’s parents rent a cabin to vacation in the small fictional village of Grana (where there are only 14 families and Bruno is the only boy) to escape the industrial pollution in their hometown of Turin. Pietro comes from a middle-class family–his mom is a teacher, his father Giovanni (Filippo Timi) an engineer at the Fiat plant in Turin. While Bruno lives in the tiny village with his impoverished farmer/laborer parents. 

The boys are opposites but nevertheless become close friends that summer roaming around the countryside, but will be separated when Pietro’s family moves back to Turin after their vacation. Pietro’s father bungles things by inviting Bruno to live a middle-class life with his family in Turin. But Bruno’s father objects, as he is angered by the nerve of Pietro’s father to think he’s better than him and declines the offer. The result is Pietro is pissed his father ended their friendship and Bruno goes to work as a laborer. The kids will not meet again until they’re in their early thirties.

Pietro took a different career path than his father, traveling around the country like a nomad and writing about it, while Bruno is content to live in the small village he’s raised in and to become a dairy farmer.

The two will again meet as adults when Pietro inherits from his father a ramshackle chalet high in the mountainside of the Alps that they will rebuild together as they renew their relationship. But that ends when Pietro becomes a published travel author in Nepal and Bruno remains in the area to run a mountain pasture business.
The meditative film is all about the tender brotherly relationship they have.

The story does not climb to any great heights, but at least does not fall off the mountain.
It played at the Cannes Film Festival.

 REVIEWED ON 1/12/2024  GRADE: B-