Breaking Glass Pictures
Reviewed for Film Factual by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: Mario Martone
Writer: Mario Martone
Cast: Pierfrancesco Favino, Francesco Di Leva, Tommaso Ragno, Aurora Quattrocchi, Sofia Essaïdi, Nello Mascia
Screened at: Online screening series, LA, 11/28/22
Opens: May 25th, 2022 (Italy)
It’s easy to look back on the past with the benefit of experience and adulthood, not forced to relive difficult times and instead merely to reflect on them from a distance. A person who has not returned to their childhood home for many years will surely have many feelings upon doing so, and may seek to reforge a connection they did not realize was missing. Nostalgia, a film whose title perfectly describes its sentimentality, follows one man’s journey as he tries to engage with his present and his past at the same time.
Felice (Pierfrancesco Favino) has been living in Egypt for a number of years following his departure from his hometown of Naples as a teenager to go work with his uncle in Lebanon. He returns to find his mother (Aurora Quattrocchi) in deteriorating condition. As he prepares for her passing, he connects with her priest, Padre Luigi Rega (Francesco Di Leva), who is facing trouble from anti-religious elements in the community. Felice soon learns that his onetime best friend Oreste (Tommaso Ragno) is now a feared mobster who Rega considers responsible for the state of affairs in Naples, yet Felice feels a pull to reconnect with him nonetheless.
Favino, who earned a European Film Award nomination for his performance in this role, is an established Italian star who has anchored a number of international exports in recent years, including The Traitor, The Best Years, and The Hummingbird. As Felice, he puts on a new accent, one of a man who has been away from his native country for decades and who still knows the language but can’t hide that he is no longer a local. The way he talks is matched by the way he walks, someone trepidatiously exploring places that used to be familiar but don’t all look the same as they did when he was last there to visit them.
This film makes clear from its start that Felice isn’t entirely comfortable back in the place where he grew up, and we hear from his wife, whom he speaks to in Arabic over FaceTime, that he didn’t talk of his country and city with adoration until he returned there. Rega is someone who, having felt a connection to Felice’s mother, warmly welcomes him into the church until he finds out about his previous association with Oreste. Once he has time to process, he realizes that he can help Felice on the right path, but Felice’s curiosity about a beloved figure from his past whom he doesn’t believe could be so bad threatens to negate the communal goodwill Rega has fostered for him. Felice could leave well enough alone but can’t completely abandon the formative experiences and relationship that so affected him.
While there are several flashback sequences presented as specifically colored film reels to show pieces of Felice’s childhood, this is a film that largely lives in the moment. There is the sense that something is going to happen that could derail and destroy things, yet it takes a while for anything to truly materialize. Much like real life, this is a film that lives in the space between calm and chaos, where everything seems fine yet could potentially go awry at any point. That hardly makes for a relaxing experience, but there is something intoxicating about Felice’s reimmersion into a place and state of mind that he hasn’t felt for years. Ultimately, this film doesn’t find the most interesting route to its relatively expected conclusion, yet there are moments along the way which capture the sentiments that its title evokes, with Favino’s performance serving as a guide to get there.
Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B