Stars: Marcello Fonte, Edoardo Pesce, Alida Baleari Calabria
For this affecting and darkly humorous character study, Italian director Garronne returns to the scuzzy, heightened social realism of his most celebrated work, crime picture ‘Gomorrah’, while retaining the fable-like quality of his last film ‘Tale of Tales’. The captivating Fonte is Marcello, the well-meaning but naïve and put-upon owner of a dog grooming parlour in the dilapidated Magliana district on the outskirts of Rome. We first meet him trying to sweet talk a scarily vicious dog while shampooing it with a broom. He is divorced but enjoys a very close relationship with his pre-teen daughter, Alida (Calabria). Their favourite pastime is scuba diving and Marcello longs to take her to one of the more beautiful but prohibitively expensive resorts. He is on friendly terms with the neighbouring businesses, the local trattoria and the cash-for-gold place next door, but also, alas, Simone (Pesce), a brawny ex-boxer and local thug who terrorises the neighbourhood with acts of theft and violence. Marcello, used to dealing with vicious animals, tries to keep Simone at bay by procuring cocaine for him. Then Simone attempts to break into the store next door by boring a hole, and when the police put Marcello in the frame for the robbery, he must make a decision. While Garronne’s intentions are elusive, he deftly handles the mood shifts from Chaplin-style pathos in the scenes with Marcello and his adorable daughter, to violent dark crime comedy. The picture boasts a memorably scuzzy, phlegm-hued depiction of the Magliana environs, so evocative that viewers might crave a shower afterwards. The diminutive, heavy-lidded Fonte, who won the best actor prize at Cannes this year, turns in a wonderfully expressive performance worthy of one of the silent greats, his character either glancing side to side furtively, or nodding in quiet acceptance at the arrival of the latest inevitable disappointment.