Reviewed by Nigel Watson
Returning to his hometown of Naples after living abroad for 40 years, Felice Lasco walks the streets and alleyways of his old neighbourhood. Nothing much has changed except his mother Teresa (Aurora Quattrocchi) has sold their old home and is living in a gloomy apartment where she just about manages to exist. She was more than likely swindled in this transaction but she does not care.
Strolling through the ancient shabby streets of the Rione Sanità district he is constantly watched by people peering from windows, doorways and balconies. Felice is indifferent to these watching eyes and has careless flashbacks of riding and racing his motorcycle through these very streets with his old pal Oreste Spasiano (Tommaso Ragno).
Underlining the fact that we have selective memories of the past, at a small café an old friend of the family who used to bring work to his mother, asks Felice if he remembers him. Felice does not and in turn the man does not remember Oreste being Felice’s friend.
As we follow Felice the story of how he came to leave Naples slowly unravels. Important to this is the role of the local priest Father Luigi Rega, who campaigns to keep the youth of the district occupied with music and community activities. He tells Felice that he calls his old friend Oreste, ‘The Badman’ as he is the drug kingpin of the area, and warns Felice to go back to his home in Cairo.
Felice has fond memories of being with his friend, yet ‘The Badman’ is far from pleased about his return and like the priest he wants him to go back home. Despite the warnings and the danger posed by his old friend Felice is totally oblivious to these threats and even plans a future life in the city.
Nostalgia metaphorically blinds Felice to what everyone else can see in the here and now. Pierfrancesco Favino turns in a low-key yet powerful performance as Felice that contrasts with the loud and bold performance of Francesco Di Leva as the priest.
Cinematographer Paolo Carnera shows us the stark beauty of what one character calls ‘this trash heap’ and director Mario Martone skilfully draws us into the story of one man’s pursuit of an idealistic dream of his lost youth, without regard to the consequences in the here and now.
Nostalgia is screening at Plymouth Arts Cinema from Friday 10 – Thursday 16 March.