The extraordinary six-hour Italian movie The Best of Youth is like a long novel. By the end you feel you know the characters the way you know your own family and circle of friends. The setting is the social and political turbulance of the years between 1966 and 2003. The writers, Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli, and the director, Marco Tullio Giordana, approach public events with an intimate lens. Considering the length of the picture (generally shown in two three-hour screenings) and of the period it portrays, the film has a surprisingly compact cast of characters. Though the narrative sometimes leaps ahead several years and regularly stretches back and forth across the country—and occasionally steps outside it—the film brings to mind a story by Chekhov more than a novel by Tolstoy.