There are some movies that come along and hit you in just the right way, feeling perfectly attuned to your general mood in and about life at the time. In The Eight Mountains, writing / directing duo Felix van Groeningen (Beautiful Boy, The Broken Circle Breakdown) and Charlotte Vandermeersch have crafted a piece that achieved exactly that for me. Having tied with the fantastic EO for the Jury Prize at the 75th Cannes Film Festival, it clearly resonated with several others as well.
Beginning in the Summer of 1984, we meet a young Pietro (Lupo Barbiero), who has traveled with his mother Francesca (Elena Lietti) from their home in Turin to rent a house in the tiny Italian Alp town of Grana for the season. Pietro has long been a bit of a loner, and so when he meets Bruno (Cristiano Sassella), the only child left in the village, the two form a quick bond. Upon returning to the city, Pietro longs for his time spent in nature and misses his friend, but soon enough it is Summer again and they return to Grana. Pietro’s father Giovanni (Filippo Timi) only gets a few short days with his family before having to return to his job in the city, and so tries to spend them hiking and spending time with the boys, appearing happier and warmer than the aloof figure that Pietro sees him as in Turin. That second Summer, Giovanni and Francesca offer to take Bruno home with the family for the Winter so he can receive a proper education, but Bruno’s absent father gets wind of the plan and whisks the boy away instead to begin working with him in construction. Aside from a chance encounter in which neither speaks to the other, the boys don’t meet again for 20 years, during which time Pietro grows distant from his father and begins to treat him with disdain.
Now 31 years old, Pietro (Luca Marinelli) is working at a bar when he receives a call from his mother informing him that his father has died. Swirling with conflicting emotions he heads back to Grana, where his fondest memories of the man reside, only to find that Bruno (Alessandro Borghi) is also there. His old friend takes him into the mountains and shows him the ruins of an isolated, old house that Giovanni had purchased and informs him that he wants to help rebuild it. Pietro is briefly skeptical but soon acquiesces and the pair spend the following Summer building it together, quickly reforming the bonds they made decades ago. Pietro then resumes his pattern of Summering in the mountains with his friend and spending the rest of the year exploring the world, but of course, nothing in life is ever quite that simple.
We all have those friends that can drift in and out of our life but with whom we share a special enough connection that long periods of absence seem to do no harm to the relationship. Likewise, we can all remember some of the first friendships we ever formed and the fond memories we have of them, at least partially inspired by the vague notion of simpler and happier times that went along with them. The Eight Mountains is able to tap perfectly into those feelings and memories, eliciting wistful smiles in its earliest scenes. With time, as in real life, swirls of melancholy seep in around the edges, sometimes threatening to overtake whatever joy remains, only ever being fought back by the strength of the relationships held most dear. The majestic scenery, beautifully captured by cinematographer Ruben Impens, and sparse score by Daniel Norgren enhance these conflicting feelings, while Marinelli and Borghi feel so natural as best friends it would not be surprising to discover if they really are. Likewise, the duo prove adept at conveying the myriad emotions that roil through their minds, expressing pure happiness at simple moments, mournful regret over past decisions, wistful longing for an idealized past, and a deep yearning to know more about themselves and their purpose in the world. A beautiful and poetic movie about time, nature, friendship, and love. ★★★★★
not rated. contains some strong language and thematic content.
★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor