Review by Joseph Fayed
The Eight Mountains had its premiere at Cannes last year, where it won the Jury Prize. To some degree, I understand why it would have been awarded that honor. But for a film that deals with the passage of time, there were parts of this long-term friendship that should have been left on the cutting room floor.
Pietro is a young boy who goes on holiday to the Italian Alps with his parents. While there, he meets Bruno, a boy around his age who is working on his family's farm. The two begin a friendship, but as Pietro begins school, the two fade apart. Many years later, after Pietro's father dies, he discovers he has inherited an old shack in the village. He also learns his father grew close to Bruno, who agrees to help him transform the shack.
The story is divided into three acts: one recounting the protagonist's childhood, an update on their teenage/college years, and their adulthood when they reconnect. Their adulthood gets the most focus, showing what has changed for the two men over the years. One course of action the film takes is to highlight the connection to the Alps Bruno has always had, while showcasing what Pietro has made for himself in the city. While younger and older versions of the two leads are shown heavily, there is a significant gap in flashbacks showing how Bruno stayed put in the village in his teenage years. The film is slowly-paced and lets the two catch up as adults, so not spending enough time on this period in Bruno's life doesn't make sense.
The last act shows how Bruno and Pietro deal with their lives going in opposite directions. One positive thing the clumsy narrative did right was set up a fitting conclusion. This is prompted by the supporting characters, who don't have much to do or say on their own, allowing the two leads to become more developed. Other than that, it seems roughly half of the film is long takes of the Italian Alps and characters climbing them.
The Eight Mountains is the story of friendship lost to time and the Alps. Much like the Italian Alps, it takes a long time to reach its peak. Its protagonists are simply not interesting enough to watch two and a half hours of. It wraps itself up well, but that is only after quite some time of going back and forth between narratives that would have worked better in different films. Maybe the jury at Cannes last year was too in awe of the impressive cinematography, I certainly was at various points while watching this.
The Eight Mountains is now playing in theaters.