My Life as a Dog (1985) | Arrow Blu/DVD Release

April 26th, 2017
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Lasse Hallstrom | Cast: Anton Glanzelius, Tomas von Bromssen, Ing-Marie Carlsson, Anki Liden | 101min | Sweden | Drama

A coming of story told with sensitivity but never sentimentality. MY LIFE AS A DOG (Mitt Liv Som Hund) is based on the autobiographical novel by Reidar Jonsson. In 1959 Sweden, 10 year old Ingemar (Anton Glanzelius) lives with his dying mother and his older brother. To keep himself cheerful he thinks of all those worse off – such as Laika, the Russian dog who was sent to Space in a Sputnik where he died of starvation. Laika becomes a metaphor for all his suffering, as he reflects on happy memories of summertime by the lake where he made his mother laugh. Anton Glanzelius gives a magical performance for a little boy. Brimming with cheekiness but also quietly reflective, he shows tremendous forbearance given his sad circumstances until it all becomes too much in the poignant final scenes.

The Swedish countryside where he’s sent to live with his uncle is a lush green paradise where the night is full of stars and everyone seems friendly and cheerful. Even when the snow falls there is plenty to do, but thoughts of his mother continually drift into his mind, along with those of his pet dog who he yearns for as a soulmate, but who mysteriously never returns. This is a film suffused the silent worries of childhood and early puberty, the subtle bodily changes that occur and fears that remain unexplained often lead to burning and unspoken anxieties.

MY LIFE AS A DOG is a deeply impressionistic film delivered with a lightness of touch, profoundly moving and suggestive in nature rather than over-talkie and intrusive. It leaves a space for our own reflections and recollections making it all the more powerful allowing soulful empathy with Ingemar as he constantly comes to terms with disappointments beyond his comprehension; those that we may have suffered too. There’s a resilience and a starry-eyed optimism here and a touching vulnerability – particularly in the scene where Ingemar spends the night in the Wendy house in his uncle’s garden. This is one of the most insightful and delicately drawn portraits of childhood, but also of being a child in the late fifties. Hallström seamlessly evokes sadness, hope and joy in a young life touched by tragedy. MT


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