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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
In a bleak corner of Italy lives a meek dog groomer who deeply cares for his town’s four-legged population. The people here are less kind to him, but he has his circle of friends, the men he plays soccer with, the daughter he takes out to scuba dive and his stand-offish ex-wife who greets him with casual contempt. Not all is well with the “dog man,” as the name of his store refers to him. As a side hustle, Marcello (Marcello Fonte) sells cocaine, which brings one incredibly difficult customer, Simoncino (Edoardo Pesce), with alarming regularity.
This is a movie rooted in an arena of petty thievery and urban ruin, a derelict estate outside of town. The cinematography by Nicolai Brüel reflects the movie’s bitter tone. The unkempt urban landscape looks filmed through a sickly yellow filter at daytime and under the dirtiest shade of green-blue at nighttime. It’s an allegorical nowhere, standing in for just about anywhere where power struggles and revenge can run free. It’s a grim picture from every angle.
Fonte’s performance gives Marcello’s story a layered sense of empathy. We get a sense of why he’s doing what he’s doing, without the character ever stating it. We’re meant to feel bad for him when his need to please Simoncino gets him into all kinds of trouble.
Dogman is a morality tale that will make some viewers squirm away from violence and make just about everyone cringe at Marcello’s descent into depravity. The end so heartbreakingly captures what he truly wanted all along—and how he will likely never get it again. Despite its hard message, Dogman comes across as sympathetic for any gentle soul trying to make a deal with the devil. May you heed this movie’s warning and not end up like poor Marcello.