Two kids grow up inseparable friends in Naples until a shocking teenage incident sees their lives taking very different paths. Deep into midlife they must face a reckoning with their choices and the city that formed them. On the face it, this might be the plot of a novel by Elena Ferrante. Instead Mario Martone’s film is an engrossing psychodrama about two men travelling towards their own defining rendezvous.
The first half of the film is carried by the magnificently hangdog Pierfrancesco Favino, possibly best known in the English-speaking world playing a gold statue of Columbus in Night At The Museum. He has returned after 40 years away from a successful life in Cairo to the city of his youth to visit his dying mother, and finds it remarkably unchanged – still a seething civil war between the Catholic Church (Francesco Di Leva relentless as the charismatic Father Luigi) and the Camorra gangsters. Nevertheless he longs to make peace with his teenage buddy Oreste, who has matured into a ruthless, self-loathing ganglord.
Though the film settles into familiar gangland tropes, it’s wonderfully alive with the sound and sensations of the modern city – you can almost smell the traffic fumes, ripe garbage, incense and surf. And the soundtrack – a heady mix of Egyptian electropop (“Ya Abyad Ya Eswed” by Cairokee), Bach and Tangerine Dream (including the 1966 psych-pop delight “Lady Greengrass”), is an absolute treat.