(director: Matteo Garrone; screenwriters: story by Garrone & Ugo Chiti/Maurizio Raucci/Massimo Gaudioso; cinematographer: Nicolaj Bruel; editor: Marco Spoletini; music: Michele Braga; cast: Marcello Fonte (Marcello), Edoardo Pesce (Simoncino), Nunzia Schiano (Madame Simoncino), Alida Baldari Calabria (Alida), Adamo Dionisi(Franco); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Paolo Del Brocco, Matteo Garrone, Jean Labadie, Jeremy Thomas; Magnolia Pictures; 2018-Italy-in Italian with English subtitles)

“Captivating Gem.”


Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The great filmmaker Matteo Garrone (“Gomorrah”/”Tale of Tales”) helms this captivating gem. It’s an intimate tale loosely based on a real incident, that’s told as a David-and-Goliath parable about a man’s so-called weaknesses causing him problems that he handles by finding a new inner strength to go after the big dog tormenting him that must be put down.

Marcello (Marcello Fonte), nicknamed the titular Dogman, is the sad-eyed gentle divorced hard-working dog-grooming shop owner at the impoverished seaside small town in Southern Italy, a place of rusting storefronts and run-down buildings–on the outskirts of Rome. He shows tenderness to all the dogs and to his young daughter (Alida Baldari Calabria),, and spends choice time with her. His problem is with the petty criminal local bully, an ex-boxer, Simone (Edoardo Pesce), who makes his presence felt in the tight-knit community by terrorizing its residents. He sports a jacket with the words “Uncle Sam/U.S.” written across the back. Because the beastly Simone gets his cocaine from Marcello, the soft-spoken groomer becomes an accessory to a violent crime and is forced to be exiled from his hometown for a year and tagged by the community as a rat for talking. When he returns, Marcello is a changed man and the nice-guy turns on his newly found inner anger to get revenge on the awful brute. Fonte is an actor you can’t keep your eyes off, who makes his character work in any guise.

Garrone is a major director who seemingly can make any kind of a film work. Here he brings tension to a human interest story, one that offers us top-level storytelling and some good insights into human behavior.