VIFF 2014 Review: Beautiful Youth

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Regardless of how news outlets spin current world events, by now everyone is more or less aware that the global economy is in trouble and that some countries are doing far better than others. Europe has been experiencing particularly difficult times and those difficulties have appeared here and there in film, in some instances more bluntly than others. Spaniard Jaime Rosales’ Beautiful Youth is the most recent, microscopic look at the hardships faced by a young couple in Spain.

Ingrid García Jonsson and Carlos Rodríguez star as Natalia and Carlos, a young couple in love. She’s dropped out of school and spends her days at home, hanging out with friends and occasionally shop lifting make-up while Carlos works odd jobs and conspires with his friend to open his own business. In an effort to generate quick cash, the pair agree to appear in a porn, a venture that turns out to be only the first in a long line of schemes to generate income. Making money to take care of themselves becomes both a thing of the past and a thing of immediate urgency when the young couple is faced with a new challenge: parenthood.

Beautiful Youth could easily have become a cynical movie about the difficulties of being young amid a recession but instead, it’s a testament to human resilience. Watching Natalia and Carlos grow and mature over the course of a few short years is a beautiful reminder of how the events of our lives shape the people we become, even if the changes aren’t immediately apparent. Both Rodríguez and Jonsson give great performances but the film focuses mostly on Jonsson and the challenges she faces and the actress shines in the role.

Rosales takes a verite approach to Beautiful Youth which gives the movie an added layer of reality. On a few occasions, Rosales uses technology in an interesting and new way to mark the passage of time and showing the changing relationship between Natalia and Carlos and though I appreciate the approach here, I hope it doesn’t become a regular thing in features.

Beautiful Youth neither glorifies nor frowns on the actions of Natalia and Carlos, it simply presents an unabashed look at coming of age under difficult circumstances and it does so with a glint, however small, of hope.

Beautiful Youth plays VIFF again on October 2nd. Check out the VIFF program for tickets and additional screening information.