Italian Mobsters and French Agents: Reviews of Gomorrah and Call My Agent
Are you struggling to find a new TV series on Netflix? Here are two recommendations to keep you going through lockdown.
By Aedan Brennan
“Déjà vu”, Neo exclaims. Where’s Morpheus when you need him? I’d happily take the red pill and wake up from all this madness. None of us like this version of the Matrix and sadly we cannot boot up a kung fu programme and kick Coronavirus’s ass, but with the help of some Italian gangsters and crafty French casting agents, lockdown 2.0 might just pass us by.
If you’re like me, Netflix scrolling makes you nauseous. With unlimited time comes unlimited choice, yet if you’re sick of seeing the same old sitcoms or mediocre dramas I may hold the key to a hidden world full of excitement and intrigue. Fed up with Amazon Prime sneakily creating more subscription programmes, appear free until you see the 5-pound fee? BFI may make you feel suitably indie and allow you to make judgemental comments in your next zoom group call, but if you’re a scrounger like me and have access to your family’s sky account I have a cheaper alternative.
Gomorrah is a show which may pass you by. Hard to find and doesn’t get the press it deserves, Gomorrah is a show which will take you by the scruff of the neck and force you into a world of intrigue, corruption, carnage, and mob warfare. It does not do this at breakneck speed, yet builds slowly, mapping out its characters with expertise, allowing them the breathing space to deliver gut-wrenching blows when the narrative permits. The audience is not treated as an infant, as writer Leonardo Fasoli doesn’t neglect the story to spoon-feed the viewer a flashy action sequence or a CGI explosion. Sadly, such lazy television is becoming an increasing phenomenon. One only had to switch the TV on during the Christmas period, and causally flick to the modern adaption of Ben Hur to see how inadequate pacing and exposition can ruin a film. For me, cinema and the small screen are about showing not telling and that’s what separates film from literature. Thus, force-feeding me exposition whilst watching an uninteresting chariot race makes me feel like a kid getting distracted by the doctor whilst he gives me an injection. It’s dull and painful. Gomorrah is thus a breath of fresh air, as I’m left learning the ways of the Italian mob instead of being dictated by a godlike narrator. Nor does Gomorrah fall fully into gangster tropes, it doesn’t leave you feeling romantic about this lifestyle, in fact, I’m often left repulsed. It’s more akin to The Wire than The Godfather adding realism to a life which is steeped in deceit and paranoia.
The sense of dread is amplified throughout by the score, with driving deep synths pounding as the action pulsates then mellows as some ghastly deed is done, allowing you to mournfully ponder whether your emotions can take another episode. The performances however will leave you hooked with Marco D’Amore as Ciro standing out in the first season. Marco moulds Ciro into a force of fear, one ever knows his full intentions or the scale of his brutality. On the other hand, Salvatore Esposito handles Gennaro, the son of the mob boss Pietro Savastano, with tones of sympathy and pathos, depicting a man well and truly out of his depth. However, Esposito totally embodies the character to the extent that Gennaro becomes the defining element of the show. The juxtaposition of the wealthy Gennaro and the self-made Ciro shows how crime touches everyone, corrupting those in the highest and lowest levels of human society. Leonardo Fasoli has written a truly great show which deserves your full attention. If you want this lockdown to pass you by, slighting above crawling speed, I suggest you give Gomorrah a shot.
Call My Agent
Left reeling from Naples finest criminals? In need of respite? I can save you some time navigating the labyrinth of Netflix, dodging gloopy dull sitcoms and the seductive monstrous new releases. Why not venture to Paris where Call My Agent (Dix Pour Cent) will shed some much-needed hilarity into our new internal normality. If you think managing MyTimetable is difficult then what about managing Pre-Madonnas and aspiring Oscar winners? This is the focus of Call My Agent, where a group of work friends try and keep their agency, ASK, afloat whilst sealing new contracts to actors and actresses. From the first scene I was already giggling, and I did not stop throughout. Each agent has a different agenda and a different style making the interchanges between the characters as well as their clients a new problem in each episode. Whilst juggling for the safety of their enterprise, the agents also have different views on cinema, with Andrea Martel (Camile Cottin) staunchly advocating smaller pictures contrasted with the careerist Mathias Barneville (Thibault de Montalembert) putting the personal gain of his clients above his affiliation to cinema. This makes for interesting viewing as well as some hilarious interchanges, enhanced by the Parisian sass. Yet again what elevates this show above the mundane is its pacing, with each episode adding another layer to the narrative as well as juggling each individual episodic struggle. Some shows do not know how to maintain this equilibrium, prioritising the stories objective and sacrificing character building in the process. From what I’ve viewed Call My Agent has achieved both, which is not an easy task judging by the many films and shows that have fallen at this hurdle.
Call My Agent isn’t just light-hearted fun. The show doesn’t feel afraid to tackle issues such as neglectful father figures and abandoned daughters. In fact, it manages to contrast its bubbly disposition with pangs of sudden sadness. Although it doesn’t let this sway the narrative to a deeply impactful emotional drama, it does add another layer to the story, elevating it to the higher echelons of television rather than the scrap heap of mind-numbing, snore inducing Netflix picks.
Overall, the script is magnifying, and the acting is deliciously crafted to fit the exuberant setting as well as deliver the subtle interchanges of tone. Such were the performances that Gregory Montel and Thibault de Montalembert were nominated for the ACS Best Actor award in 2016, with Camile Cottin winning the Best Actress award that same year. Fanny Herrero came away with the Best Writer award, justifying my excitement over this show. Although the light-hearted score did cause me some teething problems, this may be due to the sombre tones of the now.
Innate jealousy of past times and past freedoms have come to haunt our trapped existence, yet hopefully, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. We can catch such a glint from the grit and horror of Gomorrah or the slapstick nuances of show business in Call My Agent.