Co-writer/director Mario Martone’s Italian drama Nostalgia is a beautiful look at the bittersweet results of trying to go home again. Felice Lasco (Pierfrancesco Favino) left Naples for Cairo 40 years ago when he was a teenager. He built a life in Egypt, made his fortune, found love, and married. But Felice never forgot Naples. The specters of the past have called him to his hometown. Felice left under a cloud of suspicion and violence but is now looking to reconnect with his beloved city and its people. Time changes everything, and nothing changes more than people. While the city has echoes of Felice’s golden childhood memories, it and the people he knew moved on long ago.
Felice wanders Naples, soaking it all in. At first, he’s like a tourist in his own town but gradually seeks to reintegrate into the culture. Felice sits in the cafe looking out at beautiful architecture, and we see it through his eyes. Four decades have not dulled the beauty of the place, and he seems to luxuriate in that glow. People, against all odds, recognize him, despite the long time away. Felice lives in this moment, ignoring the darkness that awaits him, still avoiding the lingering danger that caused him to flee in the first place.
“When Felice inquires about Orestes, people show raw fear…”
Felice finds that his mother, Teresa (Aurora Quattrocchi), has been swindled out of her apartment. She’s now moved into a first-floor hovel in the same building. The space is barely larger than a closet. The money he’s been sending her all these years has gone to someone else, and she sits alone in the dark. Teresa rationalizes this by telling Felice she’s going blind, and it doesn’t matter what it looks like.
Felice tending to his mother is the most affecting part of Nostalgia. His remorse at having not kept up with her for so long drives him to try to make amends. In a particularly moving moment, Felice bathes Teresa, telling her he’s caring for her as she cared for him when he was a baby. He moves his mom to a beautiful new apartment, but events occur that drive Felice to feel the pull of home even more than before.
"…fly down cobbled streets with the wind blowing the sins of the past away."