Matteo Garrone follows up his excellent 2008 drama Gomorrah with a film that examines the madness of reality; TV, that is. Affable fishmonger Luciano (Aniello Arena) becomes obsessed with the idea of being a contestant on Big Brother. He has enough charisma and exhibitionism to be auditioned, but the ensuing wait to be cast plays havoc with his life, sanity and wife. What begins as a pipedream to a brighter future descends into chaos and pathos, with Luciano betting everything on nothing. Satirising the modern fixation with celebrity is like shooting fish in a barrel.

In fact, put that on TV and you have a show.

Garrone's approach merges subtle with garish, alternating presenting how fame and glitz-obsessed Italians are while tempering that shallowness with the human need to better oneself. During the scenes in which Luciano's story could become farce, Garrone reminds us there is a little of the Everyman about him.

After all, the script is based on a true story.


And if truth is stranger than fiction, it's worth noting that Arena is serving life in prison for murder as part of Naples' Mafia-type crime gang Camorra, featured in Garrone's previous film. Big Brother Prison, anyone?

Stars: 4/5
M; 115 minutes; Out now.