Nostalgia (Mario Martone, 2022, Italy/France)

Nostalgia is the latest narrative film from Neapolitan director Mario Martone. Based on the 2016 novel by fellow Neapolitan Ermanno Rea, Nostalgia tells the story of Felice (Pierfrancesco Favino), a middle-aged man returning to take care of his dying mother in Naples after 45 years living abroad. Felice is a stranger in his home city, having to get used to the changes (the local Camorra has taken over much of the city) as well as the Italian language itself (he has learned Arabic and is living with his wife in Egypt). 

But what drives Felice is his desire to reunite with an old friend - Oreste (Tomasso Ragno). A traumatic childhood event led to Felice's departure from Naples at age 15, and now Orestes has grown up to become one of the most feared mobsters in the city. We learn this in Felice's confession to the local priest (Francesco di Leva - one of the film's finest performances). While Martone's film has the trappings of the mafioso genre and even the American Western, it plays the events in a much more slow-paced, arthouse style. Martone and his cinematographer Paolo Carnera are observers of the streetlife in Naples, and the film is as much a portrait of a city as it is a portrait of a man.

As the film progresses toward its somewhat inevitable conclusion, Martone devotes much time to exploring the concept of nostalgia. As we will take away from the film, nostalgia comes in many different varieties, and it can often be the source of problems as much as good. The counterpoint between Felice and Oreste is made vivid by their different physical appearances as well as their different paths in life. Nostalgia is a solid mood piece and a strong piece of contemporary Italian and Neapolitan cinema.




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