From the man behind Gomorrah—2008’s gritty exploration of contemporary Italian crime families that scored big with the Globes and BAFTA—comes Reality. It’s a major gear change from its predecessor as director Matteo Garrone sets about satirising reality television and the present obsession with the overnight celebrity.
The film follows Luciano, a vibrant fishmonger who sees making a name for himself on Big Brother as the answer to all of his problems. His family support him along the way, pushing him into auditioning before slowly realising that what began as a pipedream has developed into something far more dangerous. Luciano becomes obsessed by his goal and will let nothing stand in the way of achieving his most modern of dreams.
Garrone approaches the subject matter with a clear desire to have fun as well as dissect society’s obsession over instant fame with malevolent delight. His observations are acutely made, and when transferred to the state of ‘reality’ elsewhere in the world, such as the UK, could probably have been pushed even further. The use of Enzo, a former Big Brother runner-up who now fills his days with club gigs and wedding appearances, whilst simultaneously thinking he’s Italy’s answer to Tom Cruise, becomes even more amusing when you realise that this is a path that many reality stars take in real life.
Part of what makes the film such fun is its cast of vibrant characters. Luciano’s family are a colourful bunch, somewhere between the Italian and American stereotypes in that they’re loud and notably large, and much of the film’s humour revolves around them. Unfortunately much of Reality’s problems stem from its message. It’s hardly groundbreaking to highlight the perils of celebrity; this has been one of the most consistent themes in Hollywood since its conception. Even the reality TV angle hardly feels as relevant as it did five or six years ago. Big Brother may still be an internationally recognised symbol of this type of entertainment, but the fact remains it’s been on its way out for several years now.
Furthermore as Luciano’s mental state begins to falter and he falls apart during the final act, so too does the film around him. The indulgences of his character begin to aggravate, where at first they were endearing. It’s an unfortunate turn of events, especially when Garrone and his cast have been so consistently entertaining up to this point. Thus Reality is only three quarters of a good film. It’s a relatively easy watch, with a theme that translates seamlessly to most Western cultures, but the end result is simply not profound or satisfying enough to make the film an entirely worthwhile endeavour.
It’s always a nice feeling to discover a filmmaker with masses of potential that no one seems to be talking about. In British drama Broken it feels like there’s a major discovery just waiting to happen in director Rufus Norris. Though his experience lies largely within the realm of theatre, there’s a true film director here just waiting to be found.
Eloise Laurence plays Skunk, an eleven-year-old girl whom audiences will fall in love with. The film revolves around the quiet cul-de-sac on which she lives, except that it’s not particularly quiet at all. There’s more drama unfurling in these three or four houses than the whole of Wisteria Lane and Albert Square combined. It’s no surprise then that Broken has a tendency to fall occasionally into the realms of soap opera, but due to Norris’s great execution it doesn’t really matter.
The film focuses on three neighbouring families and a dramatic series of events that evolves around them. It begins with an accused rape and ends with a grim climax that features more than one dead body. It may come as a surprise then that what’s sandwiched between these bleak bookends is 90 minutes of chiefly warm-hearted family drama that feels genuine and even jovial at times.
Granted there’s a lot happening simultaneously as the action shifts from one narrative strand to the next so that it sometimes feels a little disjointed, but young Laurence’s standout performance forms the glue that manages to hold it all together. She’s a natural in front of the camera, and brings a great deal of weight to both her role and the film as a whole. Likewise Tim Roth and Cillian Murphy are both welcome additions to the cast and add a little A-list credibility to proceedings, hopefully ensuring that at least a few people get to see this unexpected gem.
The fact is however that Broken will likely be one of those great little movies that no one’s ever heard of. The film still lacks distribution in the UK, Australia and North America, which is a travesty when it easily ranks amongst the best films I’ve seen all year. I’ll be very surprised if Broken doesn’t sit proudly amongst my personal highlights by the time the festival draws to a close. What more can I say other than I implore you to watch it the first chance you get.