Looking a little like Larry Clark’s “Kids” if they were a few years older and had moved to Barcelona, the post-adolescents in “Youth” are mostly charmless but regrettably credible. A study of disaffected young people that transforms its in-your-face lack of polish into a strength, this eye-catching debut by writer-directors Ramon Termens and Carles Torras suggests fine work to come, largely thanks to a script that’s more concerned with nailing down the truth than making the right impression. Well-received on Jan. 21 release, pic deserves fest dates and Hispanic art house bookings at the least.
The plot tells three loosely-linked tales. The first, by far the clumsiest, sees ambitious, amoral graduate Jordi (Roger Coma) starting work at a stockbroking firm run by Sr. Puigmarti (Jordi Dauder). Using his grandfather’s money to invest, Jordi initially loses heavily and flirts with Puigmarti’s daughter, posh economics student Cristina (Aina Clotet), before finally coming good on the back of the US’ invasion of Iraq.
Second seg centers on Cristina celebrating her 21st birthday with three airhead roommates. Having been jilted by Jordi, Cristina hits the pills and booze. Most of this seg graphically charts her decline into stupor, her nightclub seduction by David (Aleix Rengel) and its sickening consequences.
The final, strongest section shows Jordi’s wayward younger brother, Pau (Pau Roca), out in a nearby pueblo on a lost Sunday, driving round with his buddies in a beat-up yellow car in frantic search of pleasure. Masking his shyness with violence, Pau has fallen for Roser (Ariadna Cabrol), and is aghast to see she’s making out with Mohamed (Mohamed Bouachmir), a Moroccan.
All three segs underline the want-it-now economic and sexual ambition that drives the lives of the insecure protags, as well as showing their inability to deal with emotions. The moral is clear but not hammered home: Ambitions fulfilled always come at the price of someone else’s unhappiness. But these characters have little regard for the consequencesof their actions.
Dialogue is faithfully rendered and heavy with expletives. Perfs from the largely unknown cast manage to generate a degree of understanding for even the most unlikable characters, with Clotet’s Cristina standing out in a variety of moods.
Pacing could sometimes be tightened, and visuals are occasionally over-the-top for no purpose (the nightclub scenes with their head-spinning portrayal of Cristina’s decline). But the unflinching, real-time treatment works well in the third section, evoking the endless hours of aimless pueblo boredom. Music, mostly appropriately, is head-banging rock.