When fans of My Brilliant Friend have finished the first season of HBO’s acclaimed television adaptation, they may find themselves looking to fill a void. The eight-episode series, which aired its finale earlier this month, followed the lives of Lenù and Lila, two girls growing up in a poor neighborhood in Naples in the mid-20th century. Their thorny, intense friendship—which Elena Ferrante’s wildly popular Neapolitan novels chronicle in intricate detail over the duo’s lifetime—has been fascinating to witness on the small screen. But until Season 2 arrives, viewers might consider passing the time with another acclaimed epic offering a simultaneously intimate and sweeping view of postwar Italy: the 2003 film The Best of Youth (or, La Meglio Gioventù).
When a recent Guardian article about HBO’s My Brilliant Friend noted that “this is a prestige Italian production, assembling the great and the good of the country’s cinema and TV,” the author could have easily been talking about The Best of Youth. Originally envisioned as a TV miniseries, the two-part, six-hour film directed by Marco Tullio Giordana follows two Italian brothers over the course of decades as they find their place within their country’s charged political landscape after World War II. Written by Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli, the movie won the Un Certain Regard prize at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival and was even given a limited U.S. theater run. While some American viewers may have been put off by its length and subtitles, critics were nearly unanimous in their praise for The Best of Youth. A review in Slate said that the film, despite its length, “doesn’t have a boring millisecond.” Roger Ebert described the movie glowingly as a “novel” that made him feel as though he had “dropped outside of time.”