the-interval L’Intervallo [The Interval] is the debut feature from documentary filmmaker Leonard di Constanzo, and is an understated and good-looking little film that takes advantage of a terrific Neapolitan location and tells the story of two entrapped youths who bond over a shared uncertain future. It has been picking up number of International awards - 2013 David di Donatello, Best New Director for example – and is an insightful, authentic-feeling coming-of-age story that manages to maintain a level of tension even when it is pleasant. It poses some intriguing questions before patiently revealing them, and I was left content with the message entwined within this unlikely connection.

Salvatore (Alessio Gallo) is a portly 17-year-old kid whose dull Neapolitan life predominantly revolves around his father’s business - selling lemon crushed-ice from a street cart. On what appears to be an ordinary day, Salvatore finds himself ordered by the local Camorra boss, Bernardino (Carmine Paternoster), to keep watch over a pretty, rebellious 15-year-old, Veronica (Francesco Riso), who they are holding captive in an abandoned institutional building. We are not sure, for quite some time, what Veronica has done and what fate lies in store for her, or what Salvatore is set to lose if he doesn’t comply with his ill-suited duty.

Over the course of the day we learn these things and observe the pair as they lose their initial resentment and become comfortable in the presence of the other, share stories, confess their aspirations, sympathise with each other’s situations and individually consider their options. They pass the time by exploring the expansive caverns of the dilapidated building and the surrounding gardens, while they wait for Bernardino’s return.

L’Intervallo is a success because the central relationship is an interesting one. We have two youngsters who find their futures lying in the hands of not only each other, but the understanding of the criminals who are keeping them captive. While Salvatore could leave whenever he likes, he would be re-entering the world and returning to his father in shame, and likely to be terrorized by Bernardino. If he stays, he would be responsible for whatever happens to Veronica, compliant in it. If Veronica runs off, she knows she wouldn’t get very far and face more serious consequences in the future. She is relying on Bernardino’s remorse for whatever she has done. They take more comfort talking to each other – making discoveries within their labyrinthine prison, role playing and acting out situations like they are on Survivor – than in their own thoughts.

Shot beautifully by the great Luca Bigazzi (This Must Be The Place), L’Intervallo’s grimy setting – with rats and a waterlogged basement - serves as a character in itself. The cavernous building is so big that the film never begins to feel claustrophobic. I wasn’t engrossed the entire time - the pair don’t speak much for a while, which tests the patience – but I liked the performances from the two non-professionals, and we understand that they aren’t too happy with their lives outside. We don’t know what Veronica leaves to, but we see that Salvatore grows from the experience and returns to his life with a more fulfilled appreciation.

Andrew Buckle - follow Andy on Twitter here: @buckle22

L’Intervallo is screening at the Lazvazza Italian Film Festival. For festival dates, ticket purchases and information about the lineup visit http://www.italianfilmfestival.com.au/