The New Yorker:

Matteo Garrone’s epic about two young Senegalese cousins attempting to reach Italy is his finest film since “Gomorrah.”

By Justin Chang

At one point in “Io Capitano,” a deeply moving drama about an odyssey through unknown lands, the Italian director Matteo Garrone undermines his own realism, to startlingly lyrical effect. Seydou (Seydou Sarr), a sixteen-year-old from Senegal, is one of several African migrants who have been walking for hours across a great stretch of the Sahara Desert, bound, they hope, for Italy. Some distance behind him, an older woman (Beatrice Gnonko) collapses from exhaustion, wailing, “Aidez-moi! Aidez-moi!” (“Help me! Help me!”) Seydou runs back to help, offering the woman water from his canteen and urging her to keep walking. But his cousin, Moussa (Moustapha Fall), tells him to keep moving, and suggests there’s nothing more that Seydou can do. If they lose sight of their party up ahead, they’ll be abandoned to a similar fate.

Here’s where that lyrical flourish occurs. Seydou does leave the woman behind, but before long he sees her, alive and well, smiling happily, and making her way through the desert alongside him. She isn’t walking; she’s levitating several feet above the ground, her hand clasped in Seydou’s as he leads her along. It’s quite a vision, a desert mirage—enchanting, funny, and perched riskily on the border of kitsch. But it’s a beautiful vision, too, not just because of a harmonious juxtaposition of wafting green garments, golden sand, and deep blue sky but also because of what it reveals about Seydou. He’s determined to help others even when he’s badly in need of help himself.

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