Film Greats: Lasse Hallstrom’s ‘My Life As A Dog’ (1985)

Edwin Pereyra

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The 1985 Swedish film, My Life As A Dog by director Lasse Hallstrom (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Cider House Rules, Chocolat) is a coming-of-age story of a twelve year old boy named Ingemar. Because of his Mom’s illness and an absentee father, he is forced to stay with relatives who could care for him. Staying with his uncle, he learns, among other things, about life, the opposite sex, death and loss. The film has won several awards including Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards and the New York Film Critics Circle Awards.
There is a certain simplicity in which Hallstrom tells his story of a young child growing up in the strangest of circumstances and surrounded for the most part, with some very eccentric characters. The story is supposed to touch us in one form or another. While it does that to a certain degree, there is also a feeling of distance created in the narrative between the audience and the main character.
I wasn’t quite touched by this quaint little film. As presented, I was merely a bystander in the many adventures of Ingemar. And I wanted to be more than that. Being at arm’s length with Ingemar’s experiences was, for me, not very fulfilling. Maybe it was because there were characters that were at arm’s length towards each other in the entire film (i.e. Ingemar with his relatives and maybe even with his Mom). Or perhaps it was my hope that the film could have been deeper and more meaningful especially in realizing the many themes it covers to be really engaging.
As with Hallstrom’s two previous efforts, The Cider House Rules and Chocolat), which turned out to be Oscar nominated films, My Life As A Dog also does not set off any fireworks. It more or less falls into that “average” category and then one wonders, what the big deal was all about?
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Film Greats – A continuing quick look at movies that, in one way or another, have been called “great films” by some. Other Films in this Series: Sergei Eisenstein’s http://www.hometheaterforum.com/uub/Forum9/HTML/007237.html
 

Edwin Pereyra

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Well, the overwhelming amount of responses to this film (and thread) leads me to believe (as I have already indicated) that this may not be such a great film after all.
For a film that has gotten so much critical acclaim, there sure are not a whole lot of supporters around here.
On the other hand, there are probably not a whole lot of you who have seen this one either. Well, nobody said that this series is going to be about popular films. Next week’s choice film will be another obscure but highly influential film, unless of course I decide to go commercial and mainstream at the last minute.
Nah…

~Edwin
[Edited last by Edwin Pereyra on August 17, 2001 at 12:53 AM]
 

Tino

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There Edwin. Happy now?

I have always wanted to see this film but as usual, never got around to it. I may give it a rent...if I get around to it.

Seriously, is Edwin really the only member who has seen this film?
Yikes.
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Ross Williams

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What a coincidence! I just watched this last night. It was my second time seeing it. I hadn't seen it in over 10 years. I was about 12 then, and I remembered really loving it. So I wanted to watch it again.
This time I had about the same feelings on it as Edwin. I think I liked it a little more than he did though. There are some very charming moments. And I felt all the performances were great, especially Ingemar. But like Edwin said, I never really "connected" with him. I felt like an outsider watching his adventures, instead of living them along with him. I really enjoyed it for the most part, but thought the end dragged a bit.
I'm a real sucker for coming-of-age films and this didn't blow me away, so it must not be that great.
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Jodee

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I have always had a soft spot for this film. I saw it first when I was a teenager and it really touched me. I saw it again in my early twenties and didn't love it as much, but I still really enjoyed it.
I would buy this on DVD but I understand the Fox Lorber release is a p&s hack-job. Has anybody seen the disc? I would be interested in hearing more feedback on the video quality.
I think I must have a soft spot for Lasse Hallstrom. Despite its structural flaws, Cider House Rules was really touching and Chocolat was absolutely charming. He seems like a popular director to bash because of his repeated Oscar nominations as of late, but I think he's a good filmmaker. There are better movies that don't get recognized, but I think he is great at what he does: making touching, light-hearted dramas that are very accessible. I don't think he breaks much new ground, but consistently making such well-done films is not very common in Holywood.
 

Thi Them

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I always forget to record this movie whenever it's on cable. After your review, I think I might pass on it.
~T
 

Ross Williams

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Yeah, unfortunately the dvd is full screen. Don't know whether it's pan & scan or open matte.
Don't pass up the film. It's a good movie. I think what was trying to be said, is that it's not a GREAT movie, that it's not all that it's said to be.
 

Thi Them

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Ross, I guess you're right. I'll just record it the next time it's on. It's not like I have to pay to watch it.
~T
 

Edwin Pereyra

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quote: He seems like a popular director to bash because of his repeated Oscar nominations as of late, but I think he's a good filmmaker. [/quote]
With the early good buzz Shipping News is getting, this could be the movie that might actually be deserving of an Oscar nomination once and for all. It stars Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore, Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett, among others, and is due out this Christmas.
But Miramax really should hold off on an early Oscar campaign until the movie comes out and the reviews are in.

~Edwin
[Edited last by Edwin Pereyra on August 24, 2001 at 10:20 AM]
 

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I saw this movie back in 1990 while in college. I always thought it was a very endearing coming of age film. I'll have to watch it again to be more specific, but I for one did truly enjoy it.
Would it make my list of all time foreign films? Probably not, but it is a lot better than most American made coming of age movies.
 

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