MY LIFE AS A DOG
Review by Michael Jacobson
Anton Glanzelius, Tomas von Bromssen, Anki Liden, Melinda Kinnaman
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Features: Short Film, Lasse Hallstrom Interview, Trailer
Length: 101 Minutes
Release Date: March 11, 2003
didn’t you want me, mama?”
gotta admire a kid like Ingemar (Glanzelius).
No matter how rough things get for him, he’s always able to think of
those with worse luck than him. Especially
Laika, the Russian dog who was sent into space aboard a satellite to die when it
ran out of food. “You have to
compare,” he says. “It helps to
keep a little distance.”
Life as a Dog is
one of a precious few rare jewels of a movie about childhood that manages to
feel right every step of the way: no
need to make the kids more clever than they are, no need to constantly put
experiences into some kind of adult perspective, and most of all, no need to get
overly cute or sentimental. If you
made a list of the best movies about childhood ever made, it would be very
short, but this one would be there alongside The 400 Blows, George
Washington, and Ratcatcher.
story takes place over about a year in the life of 12 year old Ingemar, as he
goes from his mother’s home to his uncle’s one summer, and back again by
winter. He’s a good kid, but
accident prone, frequently spilling milk or accidentally turning a small
campfire into an inferno. His
terminally ill mother finds less and less patience and ability to deal with him.
Though Ingemar early on claims to love his mother and his dog equally, he
will soon lose both.
experiences in his uncle’s village are warm, funny, and sometimes touching.
Once there, he’s surrounded by a colorful group of eccentric
characters, from an aging houseguest who has Ingemar read to him out of
women’s underwear catalogs, to the kid with green hair building a UFO, to the
local big hearted buxom woman who seems to attract most men but takes a warm
liking to Ingemar, to my favorite character, Saga, a blossoming tomboy who
pretends to be a guy named Lloyd so she can play football and box, but whose
puberty is starting to get in the way.
and wonderful experiences, all, and Ingemar, like most kids, can’t really
assemble it all into some kind of perspective, making sharing his encounters all
the more heartwarming and real for the audience. There is humor in the film, but some of it is bittersweet, as
Ingemar focuses on his two great loves through it all.
We see his visions of his sick and withdrawn mother as very romanticized,
and we pine for the dog he hopes to see again when we’ve already figured out
the two great eradicators of childhood innocence are sex and death.
Ingemar’s first experiences with women are tame and playful, reflecting
the wide-eyed curiosity we all experience at that age.
And for many of us, our first taste of death comes from losing a pet.
It’s compounded sadness for Ingemar that he loses a pet and a parent in
the same year. But his ability to
keep his sorrows in perspective is surprisingly mature. It’s no wonder we leave the film feeling great, and
thinking that whatever Ingemar is doing now, he’s doing okay.
Anton Glanzelius heads a terrific cast here with a fully realized performance as
Ingemar, but give credit to director and co-screenwriter Lasse Hallstrom, too,
for doing what few directors have the courage to do:
let the kid be a kid. The
script, based on a novel by Reidar Jonsson (who also co-scripted), is a
wonderful cross section of life, and one of those rare stews where the adults
are as frequently delightful and memorable as the kids are, though we are
invited to ponder: when grownups don't tell kids the truth about some
things, is it to make it easier on the kids, or themselves?
film could have gone on for twice as long as it did, and I still would have been
drawn in to every moment, every frame, every wonderful experience.
When the credits have rolled and you go on about your daily routine but
still find yourself thinking about those characters you spent a couple of hours
and marveling out how real they were to you, you know you’ve found a very
scores with a warm and sunny anamorphic transfer (closer to 1.78:1 than the
1.66:1 listed on the box) that looks like a childhood photo come to life.
Colors are well contained and sweetly vibrant, image detail is good
throughout but occasionally deliberately softened for a more nostalgic look.
Darker scenes lose a bit of definition in the margins, but there aren’t
many of those. Overall, this
transfer marries the visual look to the experience of the film very nicely.
most mono soundtracks, this effort serves the purpose but otherwise makes few
demands on your system or your ears. Most
of the movie is dialogue oriented, with a few livelier crowd scenes, all of
which come across respectably well. No complaints.
disc features a 1973 made-for-TV movie by Lasse Hallstrom, Shall We Go to My
or Your Place or Each Go Home Alone?, plus a brand new retrospective
interview with Hallstrom on My Life as a Dog, and the original trailer.