Film Review: Dogman

Still from Dogman

Matteo Garrone’s beautiful tale of a gentle man who takes on the town bully

When we strip things down to its bare elements the true talents of any writer, actor or director are given its best opportunity to come to the fore. Dogman at a glance is an often-told story in a somewhat sparse setting. It’s this simple premise and location that allow all involved to show how they can turn a little into a lot.

At its most basic, this work is about a humble and affable man’s struggles against the towns local bully. Once we look beyond this a story of many intricacies reveals itself. A tale of a protagonist who is lovable but deeply flawed, a tale of building tension that may never pay off but is expertly woven on the screen.

The story follows Marcello (Marcello Fonte) as a good-natured and timid man who runs a dog grooming service in a small town in southern Italy. He is respected by his neighbours and loved by his daughter. Not a faultless man, Marcello deals cocaine on the side to fund extravagant holidays for himself and his daughter. Throughout the film, Marcello is bullied by ex-boxer Simone (Edoardo Pesce) who is a menace within the town, using his strength to harass just about everyone. Marcello’s submissive nature allows Simone to intimidate him into immoral and illegal activities.

On the surface this seems like and standard David and Goliath story, with Marcello finding the courage to stand up to his oppressor. However, the writers, and director, Matteo Garrone (Tale of Tales, Gomorrah), have added a web of little intricacies and details to make this an excellent character study. Marcello is by no means the perfect protagonist, he has his own selfish motivations and his own defeatism ends up tearing down his life around him. Dogman keeps you engaged with a encroaching stress and the expectation of the eventual payoff that may never come we’ve come to expect from underdog stories. Marcello Fonte expertly plays this layered character that is modest and pleasant yet selfish and proud and everything in between. He portrays his development as he realises his worth after he has lost everything.

Director, Matteo Garrone, has created beautiful images and shots from a bleak and minimalist setting. Filthy streets and unassuming environments are given life with some creative scenes and a love of long establishing shots. Dogman was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. At the same festival Marcello Fonte won the award for Best Actor. It was also selected as the Italian entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards. After seeing Dogman, it is plain to see that it is deserving of these accolades. There is nothing new or complex about Dogman, but it is in its flawless execution of a such a natural premise that Dogman really shines.

Dogman has a preview screening at Palace Nova Eastend on Sunday August 25th, and then opens officially on Thursday 29th August.

Effortless 4.5 stars

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