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Nostalgia Cannes Film Review

Updated: May 30, 2022

★★★★

 

Pierfrancesco Favino
Nostalgia Poster

While Mario Martone’s latest film Nostalgia is rather on-the-nose with its title, why beat around the bush with a film this emotionally direct, with a heartbeat that gloriously bridges the past and the present. Crafted with sensitivity, care, and candour, this nostalgic excursion proved surprisingly modern, being one of the strongest films at Cannes.


Having left his home-city of Naples at the age of fifteen, Felice (Pierfrancesco Favino) returns after his self-exile, having established a successful life in Cairo. At first we think his return home is motivated by his elderly mother, nearing the end of her life. But memories of his Neapolitan childhood reveal the friends he also left behind, and one friend in particular, Oreste Spasiano (played by Tommaso Ragno). Like brothers in childhood, a petty crime-turned-sour forced Felice to flee the city, and the two men haven’t exchanged a single word since. Befriending the local priest, Father Luigi (Francesco Di Leva), Felice learns that his childhood friend is now one of the most feared mobsters in Naples. Felice tells his wife that the city hasn’t changed, but while the city hasn’t changed, the people have. Combining elements of the crime thriller with a tale of lost-brotherly-love, Nostalgia is more than just a trip down memory lane.

With Sorrentino’s The Hand of God released last year, it’s interesting to note just how different the two directors interpret the city of Naples. Sorrentino’s is a poetic-realist dreamscape, subjective and fanciful. Martone’s Naples is more concrete; noir-like, corruptive. In both films, it’s a city of memories, tinged with regret. Despite its frequent flashbacks (shot with super-8 flare and a Tangerine Dream soundtrack) the film effectively builds towards its climax where Felice and Oresto reunite in confrontation. Since their adolescence, Felice has grown into a successful man, but Oresto lives a life of violence and squalor; Felice’s own family-dynamic is parodied in the criminals and urchins who hang around Oresto’s crumbling apartment. The two men poignantly realise that they are now strangers, their friendship irretrievable.


Masterfully acted by all those involved - especially Favino whose physical stature still nurtures the melodramatic guilt of a teenager; his scenes with Di Leva’s Father Luigi are especially powerful, both performances being mature but casual. Though its emotional nuances are a little too drawn out, and its ending a little abrupt, Nostalgia is a beautiful character-study, a real treat at this year’s Festival.

 

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