Written by: Elena Ferrante, Francesco Piccolo, Laura Paolucci and Saverio Costanzo
Directed by: Saverio Costanzo
The abrupt disappearance of her old friend, Lila Cerullo, causes 60-year-old author Elena Greco to reflect on the early days of their friendship in 1950s Naples, when Elena and Lila are two very different girls at the top of their class. At six years old, Elena is a precise girl who has consistently earned good marks in school. Lila, on the other hand, is unruly but discovered to be incredibly gifted.
Determined to empower her young female students, Lila and Elena’s teacher selects them to represent the class in a competition against two older boys. One of the boys is the son of Don Achille, a dangerous criminal figure who controls the neighborhood. Fearful of retribution, Lila hesitates to embarrass the boy, only answering questions when prompted by her teacher.
The town lives in fear of Don Achille who controls its citizens through violence and fear. In church, Lila and Elena watch as the father of their friend Carmela is dragged from his pew and beaten by Don Achille’s men.
Elena’s neighbor, Cappuccio, is found dead and his widow, Melina, is comforted by Donato Sarratore, a sensitive, but married, man. After Sarratore wife forces the family to move to ensure her husband’s fidelity, Melina has a fit, throwing her things out the window and into the town square.
Don Achille’s older son beats up Lila for humiliating his brother, and Elena, who goes to Lila’s aid, is also attacked. Now unified and equally curious about the other, the two girls become friends. A game with their dolls, ends up with the girls dropping them through a grate into Don Achille’s basement. They two search fruitlessly for the dolls and face their fears together by confronting Don Achille — laying the cornerstone of a lasting friendship and rivalry.