Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—My Life as a Dog (1985) ***½

UR, 101 min.
Director: Lasse Hallström
Writers: Lasse Hallström, Reidar Jönsson (also novel), Brasse Brannström, Per Berglund
Starring: Anton Glanzelius, Tomas von Brömssen, Anki Lidén, Melinda Kinnaman, Kicki Rundgren, Lennart Hjulström, Ing-Marie Carlsson, Leif Ericsson, Ralph Carlsson

Lasse Hallström’s “My Life as a Dog” is at times a sad story, at times an affirming story. It is always true to the childhood it represents. It tells the story of a boy whose mother is very sick. She cares for him and his older brother by herself. It is said that their father is in the Caribbean working in the shipping of bananas. Bananas seem a far cry from the cold world of Sweden in this film. So far it may be just a fantasy of where their father has disappeared.

The boy has trouble staying out of trouble. His brother is often the catalyst, but it is Ingemar who seems to reap the most mischief. Ingemar does this thing to feel better about his life. He imagines other historical situations he knows about that are worse than his. One in particular that he clings to is the story of the dog Laika, the first animal sent into space on the Sputnik 2. He imagines that Laika was up there for months and died of starvation when her food ran out. The truth of Laika’s fate is not really important to Ingemar’s purposes.

Eventually, his dying mother can no longer care for Ingemar, so he’s sent to relatives who live in a small glass manufacturing community. There, Ingemar learns more about living life than he did with his bed stricken mother. He witnesses the loving relationship of his uncle and aunt, he plays sports, makes new friends, and even meets a girl, who disguises herself as a boy because she’s his soccer team’s best player. She’s getting to that age, however, where her gender will become undeniable soon.

“My Life as a Dog” is a sweet film that isn’t over-sentimentalized by its script or Hallström’s sure direction. It has a good slice-of-life feel to it. It has the raw intensity that comes with a damaged childhood. Ingemar doesn’t fully understand the hardships he’s been forced into by his home situation. In another environment he learns of other things he doesn’t fully understand but are much more fun to explore and are necessary for a full childhood experience.

No comments: