In a small, rundown Italian village, dog lover and groomer Marcello (Marcello Fonte) owns a business, called Dogman, where he tends to various breeds big and small. Living behind his workspace, he supports his struggling business by discreetly selling cocaine. This side business inevitably lands him in the presence of unsavoury characters, chiefly the much bigger Simone (Edoardo Pesce) who is a constant irritant to the village.
Also playing a part in Marcello’s monetary equation is his young daughter, who he is determined to impress with trips away. Sharing custody with his ex, he obviously wants his daughter to go back home with impressive tales to tell about what Daddy did for her. His ex barely acknowledges his existence when she drops their daughter off, but the reason for this remains an open question. Regardless of what caused the riff in the relationship, director Matteo Garrone makes it clear that Marcello has gotten the rough end of the deal from a custody standpoint.
Much like man’s best friend, Marcello epitomises the ‘too nice for his own good’ type of man who simply wants to please every person in the small village. He states as much during the film, commenting that everyone in the village likes him and he doesn’t want it to change.
Far from the most intelligent fellow, and with a near-permanent smile on his face, the meek Marcello doesn’t realise the potential risks that are coupled with dealing cocaine. Not to mention the effect of the drug itself on people like Simone, whose unhinged behaviour becomes increasingly problematic for everyone.
Also lost on Marcello is that the longer he deals, the chances of him becoming associated with people similar to Simone increases. The consequence of Marcello’s ignorance is that he is presented with situations that jeopardise what he values most about living in the small community.
Three identical shots of the dilapidated town further highlights Marcello’s character as, despite being treated like a dog himself by Simone, his attitude never changes. He bows to nearly every wish of Simone to remain on his good side. Additionally, despite Simone’s treatment of him, he wants to consider Simone a friend.
Dogman is an incredibly realistic character study that transcends culture and language barriers. It is a study of a man who is too kind for his own safety, a man with a simple wish that proves to be difficult. The intensity picks up for the final act, steadily increasing towards the unpredictable final moments that are incredibly telling without any dialogue spoken. Ultimately, Dogman is unique film about an unfortunate but all-too-common character trait.