The Eight Mountains (‘Le Otto Montagne’)

DRAMA; 1hr 47min (Italian with subtitles)

STARRING: Luca Marinelli, Alessandro Borghi

Mountain highs: from left, Borghi, Marinelli and goat

In 1984, 11-year-old Pietro and Bruno (Lupo Barbiero and Cristiano Sassella as children, Andrea Palma and Francesco Palombelli as teens, and Marinelli and Borghi as adults) are the only kids in the timeless, teeny Italian alpine village of Grana, where Pietro’s mother, Francesca (Elena Lietti), has rented a house for the summer. Bruno, who lives in the village with his aunt and uncle, is the ideal guide to sun-splashed country life, kid-style. Back home in Turin, reality looks seriously grey in comparison for only-child Pietro, with the epic peaks a distant paradise.


Pietro goes on to high school, Bruno to work with his uncle on construction sites, his childhood, as the adult Pietro notes in his narration, effectively over at 13. It will be 15 years before the two meet again, when a directionless Pietro returns to Grana after the death of his engineer father, Giovanni (Filippo Timi), with whom he had the same arm’s-length relationship he has with everything else. Yet still he finds himself, at Bruno’s urging, pitching in to help resurrect a remote mountain house that Bruno, who became closer to Pietro’s parents than their actual son was capable of being, promised Giovanni he would rebuild.


Like the pace of mountain life, co-directors Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch’s soulful adaptation of Paolo Cognetti’s 2016 novel moves as slowly as a glacial melt, its slant on individual destiny played out primarily in the unspoken. Since neither Pietro nor Bruno are big talkers, the majesty of the untouched landscape, with its resonance in Buddhist philosophy and the reassurance of its permanence, speaks the volumes they never have. The rough-hewn cottage they build together is their unspoken statement of friendship and faith — a touchstone for Pietro in his self-exploratory travels and a refuge for montanaro Pedro when all else has fallen away.