14 August 2017



I was actually surprised to find that there was a real dog in this Swedish arthouse film by Lasse Hallstrom, the fella who first became known for directing those ABBA pop music videos. I assumed that the title was merely a fancy-pants metaphor for, say, the futility of human existence and endeavour, as is often the case with these arty foreign films.

But no, there is actually a dog in it, a cute terrier with the slightly off-putting name of Sickan, and a boy-owner for him too called Ingemar. Ingemar is about ten or eleven in this film, living with his older brother and terminally ill single mother in late 'Fifties Sweden.

It's an era when American kids of that age were wearing stripy T-shirts, hitting home runs or whatever in their Little League baseball games, being terrorised by Stephen King's Pennywise and saying things like: 'Aw, gee Mister, can I keep him? I'll walk him every day, honest I will, I promise!' Ingemar has the dog and the stripy T-shirt but, other than that, his upbringing's a little more, shall we say, eccentric.

His harassed and- let's be honest here- his more than a little checked-out Mum has one of those consumptive-type illnesses where you cough blood into a hanky and everyone around you looks appalled at the grossness of it. Ingemar and his brothers are sent off to stay with relatives while she tries to 'get some rest,' a blatant euphemism for dying in peace in the hospital.

Ingemar ends up with his Mum's curly-haired brother Gunnar and Gunnar's wife Ulla. They're both lovely, but life with them is like living in a madhouse. Ingemar gets drafted in to reading sexy passages out of a lingerie catalogue for the sick tenant downstairs, the pervy Mr. Arvidsson who apparently gets off on phrases like 'lift and separate,' 'superb uplift' and 'flattering tummy-flattening panelling,' the naughty old geriatric.

Mr. Arvidsson isn't the only weirdo in the small rural town in Smaland. Mr. Fransson is never off his roof, hammering nails into it with gusto all the livelong day, so that the accompanying annoying noise forms part of the background to everyday life in the village, whether the locals like it or not. (They don't.) The only time he comes down is when he feels the urge to swim naked in a hole in the ice.

Ingemar makes friends with a girl called Saga who is pretending to be a boy so that she can play on the boys' soccer team. Fair enough, but does she really need to rope the babyish Ingemar into binding her little buds flat for her so no-one will see that she's growing breasts?

Also, she clearly has an ulterior motive because she takes advantage of their alone time to show him her budding boobies and offer him a feel. And what does she want in return, by the way? Oh, nothing much. She only wants to see his willy, that's all...! 

And these are supposed to be kids, right? Jaysis, you wouldn't think it. Maybe kids grow up faster in Sweden and are introduced to sex and all things sexual earlier than kids in other countries. Countries like strict and judgemental Catholic Ireland, haha.

That's nothing, though, compared to what happens with the lovely blonde busty Berit, a grown woman who works in the glass-blowing factory along with Gunnar and Ulla. At least Saga is his own age. Berit gets the smitten Ingemar to sit with her while she's posing naked for the town artist who, incidentally, creates the worst sculpture you've ever seen, so bad that the town it's intended for doesn't want it. That's because it's obscene and ugly, haha. 

Thankfully, Ingemar's not hurt when he falls through a glass skylight trying to catch a proper overhead glimpse of Berit's bountiful assets. I ask you, is this a suitable pastime for an impressionable young lad? And should a lad that age really be smacking a grown woman on the ass by way of a casual greeting? I dunno. The people in this movie are weird. And not Ireland-weird, either. I mean, we have our own brand of weirdos over here, but these wackos are special. They take the biscuit, they do.

I deliberately didn't mention this at the start of the review so as not to put you guys off, but I hated every character in this film. Everyone, that is, except for Uncle Gunnar, who likes to sit out in the summerhouse playing his recording of 'I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts' on
repeat, much to the chagrin of his long-suffering but thankfully good-humoured missus, Ulla.

Was it right for Gunnar to ask Ingemar to describe Berit's bare-nekkid diddies to him in detail, however? The lines between what's 'age-appropriate' and what's completely out of order for a child of Ingemar's age are blurred to buggery in this mad-as-a-box-of-frogs film, which is about growing up and coming to terms with things but in a bizarrely eccentric environment. Whether that makes the process harder to bear for Ingemar, or easier, is open to debate. Viewers can make up their own minds...

Everyone in MY LIFE AS A DOG is as crazy as a loon and age-inappropriate things happen in it a lot. To be honest, I hated every minute of it. A million Swedes crowding into Gunnar's sitting-room to watch gameshow 'DOUBLE OR NOTHING' on the town's first telly, that was funny, though. But what the diddly-doodly was the deal with the boy with the green hair?

Lasse Hallstrom, whose other works include WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE?, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES and CHOCOLAT, was nominated for the Best Director Academy Award for this film, which writer Kurt Vonnegut claims is his favourite movie along with CASABLANCA and ALL ABOUT EVE. Jaysis. Is he a friend of the director's or what...?

I'm saying nothing. Not a word. I'll just mention that MY LIFE AS A DOG is out in a special Dual Format Edition release at the moment from the good folks at ARROW ACADEMY, complete as always with extra features. And then I'll go and watch something a little less, ah, shall we say, barking. And maybe with a smidge less barking in it, as well. Where's the bloomin' Test Card when you need it...?


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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