The Eight Mountains (Le Otto Montagne)
Directing duo Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch make excellent use of the panoramic mountain setting in The Eight Mountains (an adaptation of the novel by Paolo Cognetti), as the film follows the decade-spanning companionship between Pietro (Luca Marinelli) and Bruno (Alessandro Borghi) in this weighty but ultimately overstretched odyssey.
While holidaying with his mother in the mountains in 1984, Pietro’s chance encounter with the son of a local farmer sparks an instant friendship. Over the next few years, the boys spend the long, sunny days cherishing each other’s company and climbing the mountains with Pietro’s father. The filmmakers capture the carefree spirit of childhood in these early scenes in a way that enables audiences to vicariously experience these golden years. However, not even their relationship is invulnerable to the passage of time. As the boys grow older, they likewise grow apart, each of them following in their father’s footsteps. Through circumstance, the pair are eventually reunited decades later, and viewers have the pleasure of watching their old spark reignite.
Marinelli and Borghi’s chemistry is palpable. The reforging of their friendship is euphoric yet tinged with the bittersweetness of their years apart and all that has transpired between them. At this point, the script feels like it has come to its natural conclusion: a triumphant statement on everlasting friendship. But the plot keeps on going. Various new plot lines are introduced into the mix and piled on top of one another until the original message of companionship is buried so that it barely becomes recognisable. The Eight Mountains is easily an hour too long; it simply continues well past multiple natural conclusions until it stops. And by this point the fire that characterised the first third is little more than a dwindling ember.
In addition to its exceedingly overdone length, the script likewise doesn’t seem to know what to do with its themes surrounding nature. At several points, characters discuss the differences between the city and the countryside, but the exploration never goes beyond this. And given the staggering beauty of scenery, this feels like a missed opportunity to make full use of the production’s strongest asset.
Despite the eye-widening scenery and the radiant performances of its two leads, The Eight Mountains is a film that ultimately buckles under its own mighty ambition.
The Eight Mountains (Le Otto Montagne) does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch a clip from The Eight Mountains (Le Otto Montagne) here: