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Review: Io Capitano. Welcome to your new recurring nightmare

  • Release year: 2023
  • Director: Matteo Garrone.
  • Producers: Paolo Del Brocco and Matteo Garrone.
  • Screenplay by: Matteo Garrone, Massimo Deccherini, Massimo Gaudioso and Andrea Tagliaferri.
  • Cinematographer: Paolo Carnera.
  • Music by: Andrea Farri.

Synopsis: Seydou abandons Senegal following the promise of European riches and fame.

Shotgun Commentary: life-draining tale of horrors, suffering and corruption.

Seydou trying to keep people on the boat calm. Source: Io Capitano
(Matteo Garrone, 2023). Courtesy of Cohen Media Group.


Io Capitano follows the story of Seydou (Seydou Sarr), a sixteen-year-old kid who leaves his home with his cousin Moussa (Moustapha Fall) to get to Europe and follow his dream of being a music star. They are both too young to actually understand what they are getting into, but soon find out as life beats them into shape quite brutally during their trip.

The lure

Everything begins with fake promises. A very TikTok-sounding social media that both kids consume in Senegal shows them “the wonders” of European countries. Content that is curated and edited to look as best as possible to an extent they do not comprehend. This material acts like a siren’s call, luring them to begin a journey that will most likely mean death.

This influence affects young people the most because they are given access to social media without any prior knowledge of its dangers. Everyone knows how to use these platforms, but few people know what this use actually implies in terms of privacy, reality and manipulation. Younger audiences tend to be more naive, thus falling for every trap that is set along the way, much like Seydou and Moussa fall for the utopian lie of Europe.

A delicate balance

The struggle that they go through is horrific to the point of nausea. The extent of the suffering, while uncomfortable and chilling to watch, is also quite informative and opens the eyes of audiences who are unknowing of this situation. Some of the worst parts have some breathing space when the protagonist begins to hallucinate or dream.

Seydou hallucinating. Source: Io Capitano (Matteo Garrone, 2023).

These moments are beautiful sequences where surrealism entangles with Seydou’s wishes and hopes. The colours are more saturated and intense, and the whole set becomes clear, giving respite to the audience before submerging it in to the pain again.

However, the fiction within fiction is not the only positive content that the movie features. During the worst leg of his trip, Seydou is lucky to meet the only generous, kind and good person he will meet during the film: Martin (Issaka Sawadogo). He is a builder who takes him under his wing, saving him from an unimaginable future of horrors and giving him a surviving chance. It is a necessary contrast to what would otherwise be a cheap, pain-selling flick. He turns around the plot right where it needs to and creates a balance that elevates the storyline.

The perfect ending

Io Capitano cleverly ends before the Italian police actually gets involved, casually leaving out what happens afterwards. This conclusion gives viewers the chance to believe that everything will be alright and that the kids will achieve their dreams. Sadly, the truth is usually a lot more heart-breaking. Even if they don’t get returned to the port when they set sail or to their origin country, making the whole trip pointless, the fight for survival doesn’t end.

Seydou looking back. Source: Io Capitano (Matteo Garrone, 2023).
Courtesy of Cohen Media Group.

The best case scenario, where they forgo refugee camps, relocation and jail, means that they have to start over in a country full of people that will treat them like second-class citizens for the rest of their lives. Not Italy in particular, but Europe in general. They will have to keep fighting every day and very likely face racist impediments to their growth coming from institutions and individuals. A devastating ending from which the spectators are spared.


The story wouldn’t be as powerful and intense were it not for the great job of Sarr and Fall. They deliver incredible performances that show a lot of promise and provoke empathy seamlessly. While the makeup is a bit flawed at times, the gravity of their expressions turns back your attention to the film and away from those hiccups. All in all, the performers and the narrative work amazingly together to deliver a tale that will haunt its viewers for a long time.

Advice to take from this movie:

  • Never trust anything you see on social media.
  • Think twice before being a d*ick to immigrants, your issues are not their fault.
  • Humans are capable of horrible things.
Seydou and Moussa walking with other immigrants to cross the desert.
Source: Io Capitano (Matteo Garrone, 2023). Courtesy of Cohen Media Group.

What’s your take? Have you watched Io Capitano yet? What do you think of it? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema-related articles, check out the rest of my blog! 😀

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