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Futura review – gorgeously shot but lethargic study of Italy’s disaffected youth

Alice Rohrwacher's journalistic documentary is a bit repetitive, but her teenage subjects are compellingly observant and articulate

After Alice Rohrwacher’s sterling work mixing non-actors with professionals in her dramas like The Wonders and Happy as Lazzaro, it should come as no surprise that a documentary on which she serves as co-director makes its subjects all look like movie stars in the making. Beautifully shot close-ups and group shots really elevate Futura, an otherwise somewhat lethargic study of the state of the nation for Italy’s youth in the time of COVID.

Traveling across the country, from wealthier northern cities like Milan to the poorer southern regions, Rohrwacher and co-directors Pietro Marcello and Francesco Munzi interview groups of teenagers, asking them big existential questions like what they value most in life or how they perceive the future. Of course, answers vary between regions and socioeconomic backgrounds, but what is most interesting in Futura is generally the commonality of fundamental ideas.

With the exception of some very wealthy girls who profess their undying trust in the authorities that govern their lives, dissatisfaction is rife, most kids seeing a good future as only possible if they leave their current station. Whether it’s their family home, local area, or Italy itself, the desire for escape is palpable, one the directors clearly respect, tying the struggles of the modern teenagers into the absolute brutalisation young demonstrators faced at the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa.

“Italy is not a country that serves its youth” is Futura’s primary message, and it’s an impactful one. Yet, it takes a while to get there and the frequent similarity of responses from each group gives the whole thing an air of repetition that becomes wearing by the end, a problem that is only partly ameliorated by the gorgeous camerawork. What really saves Futura is how observant and articulate the kids here are; Italy is at the very front line of a lot of future crises thanks to a rapidly ageing population, but Rohrwacher et al have managed to find subjects who look like they’ll give the country a fighting chance, even if they’d rather not be there.

Futura is in UK cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from 8 July.

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