In Cinemas

Nascondino review – sublime exploration of nature versus nurture

This intimate documentary, shot over four years, follows a nine-year-old boy's grappling with organised crime in inner-city Naples

I hope he chooses a better path than me,” says Addolonata, or Dora, when commenting on the fate of her nine-year-old grandson Entoni. There is a heavy undertone of concern in her voice, the weariness of experience slowly draining all hope. Dora has every reason to be concerned. Entoni has proven uncontrollable, recklessly spending his days stirring trouble in the sinuous streets of Naples, committing petty infractions and rebelling against his family with the most defying of smirks.

Entoni is one of many young boys to fall under the claws of endemic violence in Naples. Originating from the Spanish Quarters, where the Camorra Mafia reigns supreme, the kid has only known a life where sons are raised by mothers and grandmothers, and fathers pile up high in prisons all over the country. With Nascondino, first-time director Victoria Fiore grants the audience an intimate look into a notoriously private community, where people live under unspoken rules as old as the crumbling buildings that surround them.

Fiore treats the people of the Spanish Quarters with the tenderest of eyes, sparing them from the morality musings that often plague portrayals of the Italian Mafia while also cleverly dodging patterns of glorification that commonly accompany the myth of the Camorra. Instead, she opts to tell the story through the eyes of those who are trapped within this ironclad structure of corruption and violence, unable to swim against a current that is bound to drown them all.

Nascondino is framed through Italy’s recent campaign to combat youth violence, which allows the justice system to remove children from families involved in organised crime. One of these children is Entoni himself, who – in the space of the four years in which the film takes place – goes from playing with fidget spinners and getting away with paltry crimes to being engulfed by the institutions that have taken generations of men before him, making widows and single mothers of the women in his life.

The film’s commentary on the specifics of Naples’ gender politics is made even more poignant when the camera turns to Dora, her undisclosed age buried under layers of heavy make-up and ears never freed from the weight of heavy golden hoops. This woman, a former Camorra boss, talks about her days in the Mafia through carefully chosen euphemisms without ever shying away from the choices she made in the name of survival, her consciousness over the societal machinations of the Quarters equally illuminating and gut-wrenching.

As if Fiore's grip on storytelling wasn’t impressive enough for a first feature, the director also displays a firm command over form, creating something that's just as spellbinding in its visuals as it is in the quality of its chronicles. As the final frame leaves the screen, one is left void of any relief, overwhelmed by the knowledge that this inescapable cycle of sorrow will survive way beyond the credits.

Nascondino was screened as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2021. It will be released in UK cinemas on 20 January 2023.

Where to watch

More Reviews...

You Hurt My Feelings review – dysfunctional family drama doesn’t bring functional laughs

Nicole Holofcener’s low-key look at the lies we tell each other to get by strays from universal laughs into far too niche territory

She is Love review – she is not very interesting

Hayley Bennett, Sam Riley and Marisa Abela star in an improvised three-hander that can't sustain our curiosity over its short runtime

Fairyland review – mostly heartwarming chronicle of unconventional parenting

Though its dialogue tends to be heavy-handed, Andrew Durham's adaptation still thrives as a showcase for star Scoot McNairy

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish review – a belated but triumphant return to the Shrek-verse

With gorgeous animation and a cracking ensemble cast, this sweet, funny follow-up is one of the year's most pleasant surprises


Hidden Gems of 2022: 30 Films You Might Have Missed

From eye-opening documentaries to intimate dramas, we highlight the films that might have slipped beneath your radar this past year...

Stream With a Theme: The Best Rural Horror Films Set in Britain

As Mark Jenkin's folk horror Enys Men arrives in UK cinemas, Steph Green recommends further viewing in this eerie pocket of cinema

25 Best Films of 2022: Individual Ballots

Interested in who voted for what? You'll find the full list of individual ballots for this year's best of 2022 list right here

25 Best Films of 2022

As another year draws to a close, our writers choose their favourite films, from daring debuts to boundary-breaking blockbusters