“The Eight Mountains” (“Le otto montagne”)
Rotten Tomatoes (3/5), Metacritic (6/10), Letterboxd (3/5), Imdb.com (6/10), TMDB.com (3/5)
Considering the importance of friendship in our lives, it’s somewhat surprising that there aren’t more movies devoted to this subject. But perhaps that’s because it’s difficult to make truly engaging films that effectively address this topic. Such is the case with this would-be grand sweeping epic set against the mountain landscapes of Italy and Nepal. In this tale of life-long friendship and self-discovery, directors Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch attempt to examine these issues through the complex relationship of two boyhood chums (Luca Martinelli, Alessandro Borghi) over the course of four subsequent decades. Unfortunately, the film seeks to cover so much ground (and lacks the kind of clarity required to do so) that much of the narrative seems muddled, meandering and just plain dull. The filmmakers try to paper over this central shortcoming with its visually stunning cinematography, which is so impressive in itself that it almost makes the picture worth watching. However, given the overall lack of focus, snail-like pacing and inclusion of too much easily removed extraneous material, the visuals are not enough to overcome a script that’s not as profound as it likes to think it is. Moreover, the chemistry between the two protagonists is often unconvincing and unclear as to what the true nature of their connection is supposed to be, making it hard to believe that they’re genuinely the good friends that the directors are attempting to claim they are (or, strangely enough at times, that they’re perhaps more than just the friends that they allegedly are). In the picture’s defense, it improves somewhat the further one gets into the story, but so much narrative clutter has preceded this that it’s difficult to muster much enthusiasm for how events play out. And, despite a supposedly uplifting message, this offering has a profound level of sadness attached to it that the filmmakers try to deflect with a sense of overblown phony nobility that, even if widely held, fails to muster the empathy it tries to generate with audience members. Friendship is indeed something that deserves wider attention in the cinematic landscape, but this release is not the way to go about it.