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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
Pietro and Bruno are brothers in everything but blood. Their friendship was forged during one glorious pre-adolescent summer, when Pietro’s parents rented a house in the Aosta valley in the Italian Alps, in a village in which Bruno was the only remaining child. The lifelong bond between them also links both to the rocky, vertebral peaks that were their childhood playground: as adults, both find themselves drawn to mountains. Bruno (Alessandro Borghi), a montanaro or mountain man at heart, stays put in the Aosta region; nomadic Pietro (Luca Marinelli) roams the world but finds a spiritual home in the Himalayan foothills.
There’s another link: Pietro’s father, Giovanni (Filippo Timi), whom his son dismissed as a grey-faced Turin wage slave, finds adventure and release scaling the Alpine trails. As a young adult Pietro drifts away from his parents, while Bruno finds a surrogate father figure in Giovanni. It’s only after the latter’s death that Pietro realises he has missed out on knowing his father at his happiest and most fulfilled. In his honour, the two friends rekindle their relationship and fulfil Giovanni’s dream, of building a lodge on a plot of land high on the verdant flank of a mountain.
Gorgeously photographed in a boxy academy ratio that emphasises the steep, breathlessly vertiginous angles of the landscape, this Italian-language and regional dialect production is an impressive first directing collaboration between Belgian husband-and-wife team Felix van Groeningen (The Broken Circle Breakdown, Beautiful Boy) and actress and writer Charlotte Vandermeersch. Sweeping and novelistic in scope, the film, adapted from an Italian bestseller by Paolo Cognetti, combines the earthy, rooted grit of Jack London with the vivid emotional landscapes of Elena Ferrante.