“My Life as a Dog” in review

Swedish film “My Life as a Dog” plays at the woodland theater this weekend

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Owning a dog is a lot like having a kid. They get into trouble, things break and sometimes they pee around the house.

Such is the life of 12-year-old boy Ingemar; a Swedish kid growing up in the ‘50s whose life is filled with adventure, discovery and misfortune.  The film “My Life as a Dog” is a 1985 swedish film by director Lasse Hallstrom who depicts the life of a child growing up in Sweden.

The film opens with Ingemar (Anton Glanzelius) living at home with his older brother and sick mother (Anki Liden). The brothers always seem to fight and Ingemar has a knack for causing destruction and chaos.

Since the mother is sick, constant arguments and pandemonium within the house sends her near the brink of insanity, which leads to the boys being sent away to live with relatives.

Ingemar goes to Smaland to live with his uncle Gunnar (Tomas von Bromssen) and it is here where he begins a new life of building friendships with those other than his dog and dealing with the struggles of pre-pubescence.

The film is a narration of the life of Swedish children growing up in the ‘50s and shows it through the eyes of a child and how they interpret it. As a child, you have many of your decisions made for you and you’re normally out of the loop on conversations and “adult” talk.

“My Life as a Dog” plays with these ideas of confusion and how kids never really know what’s going on. Parts of the movie are open-ended or left half-explained because, as a child, you tend to never get the full or honest answer.

Much like a dog, as Ingemar points out in the film, we don’t tell them they’re going to be put down or explain their fatal diagnosis. The best we can do is give them a pat on the head, kiss them goodbye and hope they’re happy in the end.

Ingemar is a very quiet character throughout the film but still manages to speak volumes with his eyes, with his mental processing almost seems physically visible. I find Ingemar to be an incredibly relatable character as I think back on being 12 years old.

You never know what to say as a kid. Is this normal? Do I tell someone? What do I say?

Hallstrom does a fantastic job showing Ingemar going through all these stages of life and showing how a kid may handle them.

“My Life as a Dog” is one of those films you almost have to see twice to fully comprehend verything. At first, you look through the story from the eyes of little Ingemar, but looking at it from the viewpoint of the adults tells an almost entirely different story, as they deal with having to talk to children and deciding what and what not to share.

The film is simplistic, quiet, even boring at times, but refreshingly realistic in portraying the ups and downs of childhood. You’ll see a little bit of yourself in the characters, too, by understanding the feelings of both children and adults throughout the film.

“My Life as a Dog” plays at the Woodland Theater at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 and 5 , with more showings at 2 p.m. Dec. 5 and 6.

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