Italian documentary filmmaker Leonardo di Costanzo makes a fully-fledged, assured leap into fiction with this endearingly small-scale tale of two kids from opposite sides of the tracks thrust upon one another for the space of a day. Sounds like a companion piece to something like Stand by Me, put like that, and it's not entirely unreasonable; L'Intervallo is about a moment when two teenagers who have been forced to grow wise beyond their years rediscover their own age and are able to savour that breath of freedom, even if for only a small moment.

     Salvatore (Alessio Gallo), the chubby kid who dreams of being a chef but has to help his dad with the lemonade street carts they live off of, and Veronica (Francesca Riso), the girl too cool for school who dreams of being famous and on a reality TV show, ask questions about the past of the derelict building they're stuck inside of, or pretend to be on a boat leading them to the Survivor island. The trick is that the "interval" the title speaks of is an unrepeatable one-off: they're actually in Naples and have been put together by the local Mafia. Veronica is challenging the unspoken code of the streets by going out with a boy from a rival neighbourhood, and Salvatore was roped in off the street to look after her while the Mob boss (Carmine Paternoster) deals with other problems, because he's closer to her age that the henchmen sent in.

     The patience with which Mr. di Costanzo allows the relationship between them to grow comes straight from his documentary experience, and that is in fact what sets L'Intervallo apart from other similar pieces. Its sense of apparent and unhurried spontaneity, of life being caught unawares — underlined by the dialogue's exclusive reliance on just-off-the-street Neapolitan dialect and by the quasi tangible Summery game of heat and shadow of Luca Bigazzi's cinematography — brings it more in line with Alessandro Comodin's equally charming L'Estate di Giacomo. But its stronger narrative, carried assuredly by the two non-pro leads, also makes it a more approachable and touching picture, made all the more endearing because both Veronica and Salvatore are fully aware that, even if it all ends well, they are never going to be able to catch up again and this day was really an interval in their lives. It's a lovely, understated film whose fragility — and occasional lack of rhythm —is part of its charm.

Cast: Francesca Riso, Alessio Gallo, Carmine Paternoster, Salvatore Ruocco, Antonio Buíl, Jean-Yves Morard

Director: Leonardo di Costanzo
Screenplay: Maurizio Braucci, Mariangela Barbanente, Mr. di Costanzo, from a story by Mr. Braucci and Mr. di Costanzo
Cinematography (colour, processing by Technicolor): Luca Bigazzi
Music: Marco Cappelli
Designer: Luca Servino
Costumes: Kay Devanthey
Editor: Carlotta Cristiani
Producers: Carlo Cresto-Dina, Tiziana Soudani (Tempesta, Rai Cinema, AMKA Films Production in co-production with Swiss Television, ZDF/Das kleine Fernsehspiel and ARTE)
Italy/Switzerland/Germany, 2012, 86 minutes

Screened: Lisbon & Estoril Film Festival official competition screening, Medeia Monumental 1 (Lisbon), November 15th 2012


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