Matteo Garrone’s Dogman is a beautifully grimy, masterpiece of cinema.

Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, Garrone’s Dogman follows the story of Marcello (Marcello Fonte), a tender dog groomer who has an instant rapport with dogs and nearly all his fellow townsfolk alike. He has a great deal of compassion and shows naivety in tough situations. Marcello cannot manage to shun the neighbourhood’s subjecting crook, Simone. One favour too many for him leaves Marcello’s life and reputation hanging in the balance. Dogman is Garrone’s first film since Tale of Tales (2015). However, Garrone’s direction is most similar to Gomorrah (2008). Brutality, a grimy setting and the eventual non-existence of the protagonist being deemed “good” or “bad”. Garrone, with Ugo Chiti and Massimo Gaudioso, have written an excellent multi-dimensional character in Marcello. He begins as a gentle Father attempting to live a peaceful and prosperous life with his daughter Sofia (Alida Baldari Calabria) and dogs, to becoming focused on respect and redemption. Dogman is a stunning evaluation of what relationships one has lost and continue to, with very captivating cinematography from Nicolai Brüel.

Fonte’s portrayal of Marcello is a tour de force. Marcello’s journey is an uncomfortably accurate representation of the repercussions of our decision making and having to live on with the life choices that have evolved us into who we now are. Originally, the bond with his daughter in the first act is undeniable but results in neither having the tools necessary even to attempt to rebuild their relationship. Fonte’s range from sheer compassion, hopelessness, and his resulting pitiless outlook help to captivate a loaded character journey that gets to the very core of the human condition. As Marcello’s journey concludes, we’re thinking about the heart-warming scenes where his affection helps to save and preserve the dogs. We envision his gazing stare following broken rapport with his daughter; We remember Marcello’s wicked plan to try and gain redemption from Simone thus visualising Marcello as a character with countless of layers to his personality.

Often, the quality of some filmmaker’s previous work and Cannes’ prestigious atmosphere can lead to a brief over-reaching from critics and audiences alike. Dogman, however, is not one of those films. Frankly, Dogman is a masterpiece of cinema and left viewers with an overwhelming sense of fulfilment. Garrone was visibly honoured with the reaction of the viewers inside the Lumiere. However, I’m sure Garrone would be even more honoured with the 2018 Palme d’Or, as he deserves nothing less.

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Gavin Jenkins
Writer and Director based in London. Freelance film critic.

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