The Eight Mountains | Picturehouse Recommends

The performances of leads Luca Marinelli and Alessandro Borghi deserves to propel them into the upper echelons of European cinema.

James Motram

13 Apr 23

Felix Van Groeningen, Charlotte Vandermeersch

Release Date
12 May

Luca Marinelli, Alessandro Borghi, Filippo Timi, Elena Lietti, Elisabetta


Running Time
147 mins

Tracing the life-long friendship of two men, The Eight Mountains is a film as spectacular as the rocky Italian vistas of its backdrop.

Winning a share of the Jury Prize at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, it marks yet another bold step in the career of Belgian filmmaker Felix van Groeningen, following his heartfelt-but- harrowing films The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012) and his last effort, 2018's Beautiful Boy, a true-life drug-addiction drama starring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet as father and son. 

Here, he pairs up with his real-life wife, actress Charlotte Vandermeersch, who previously featured in van Groeningen's 2009 breakout film The Misfortunates.

Having written the screenplay together, they also co-direct, and it's clear just how in sync they are as they take on Paolo Cognetti's award-winning 2016 bestselling novel, Le Otto Montagne. A beautifully judged, immersive portrait of friendship and self-discovery, The Eight Mountains absorbs you in its emotional and physical landscapes from the very opening shots. 

The story begins in the 1980s, when a boy, Pietro (Lupo Barbiero) travels with his mother to Grana, a tiny (fictional) hamlet in the shadow of the Italian Alps. There, he meets Bruno (Cristiano Sassella), a boy his own age, and the two swiftly bond.

When Pietro's father (Filippo Timi) arrives, he too is taken by Bruno, who is naturally far more at ease with the rugged peaks than Pietro when they take a hazardous mountain hike. Much to his shock, Pietro's parents even suggest taking Bruno to Turin to study. 

Bruno is tempted to see what the world beyond the mountains offers, but events conspire against him, and the action moves to when the two are adults. Pietro (now Luca Marinelli) and Bruno (Alessandro Borghi) haven't seen each other for years; when fate brings them back together, they begin to work through the summer on building a rustic shack in the valley.

Although this might provide the foundations to renew their friendship, like some of those treacherous mountain paths, it will be anything but an easy climb. 

The Eight Mountains revels in a luxurious journey, one that dips audiences into its world. With its Academy Ratio-shot images, courtesy of cinematographer Ruben Impens, this is a film that simply demands to be seen on the big screen.

Winding from northwestern Italy to Nepal – where Pietro finds work as a writer – it finds beauty in both the everyday and in the majesty of Mother Nature. 

Yet perhaps what impresses more is the film's narrative daring. Rarely has male friendship been depicted on screen with such honesty, gentleness and compassion.

Some critics have already referred to it as "the straight Brokeback Mountain" – a  reference to Ang Lee's tale of two male cowboys who find companionship and love against the odds. Certainly, it's a film that deals with the pain and pleasure that a lifelong friendship can bring. 

At its core are two heavyweight performances from Marinelli and Borghi. Marinelli, with his piercing blue eyes, should be familiar to those who saw him in the title role of 2019's Martin Eden.

Likewise, Borghi is the lead in Jo Nesbø adaptation The Hanging Sun, which premiered at the 2022 Venice Film Festival. But it's their performances in The Eight Mountains that deserve to propel them into the upper echelons of European cinema.

After you've seen them together, you'll understand why.   James Mottram

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The Eight Mountains is in cinemas from 12 May  Book Now