I love when people introduce me to films I may not have seen from other parts of the world.
Tonight I was lucky enough to watch one that I could sum up in one word, but it wouldn’t be a very long review…
That word is fantastic.
The movie comes from Australia.
It’s based on a legendary true story.
It’s called Red Dog.
I will be the first one to say that when it comes to animal pictures, I’m not always a big fan. I find that far too often the film tries to anthropomorphize the animal, making them seem more human. Not in this case. Red Dog is a dog, not your average dog to be sure, but he acts and behaves as a dog should and would. He’s believable.
Directed by Kriv Stenders the film is set in 1970s, the film is set in the north-west end of Australia in the mining town of Dampier, which seems to be set on the edge of nowhere, and has some beautiful backdrops of sky and ocean.
Thomas (Luke Ford) is on his way to deliver a statue to Dampier, and stops at the local pub where he finds a vigil is being held for a sick and dying dog. As the town gathers, stories are shared with this newcomer as they tell the story of Red Dog.
They begin with two travelers who are on their way to run that very pub and are stopped on their journey by a dog sitting in the middle of the road. Before they can move him aside, the dog, a kelpie (and I finished the movie wanting one of my own!) hops aboard and joins them.
So begins a genuinely heart-touching, laugh-out-loud, feel-good story that tells the tale (pun intended?) of an enduring Australian legend.
The Red Dog has no master in this town of miners, but in fact calls them all family, hitching rides with people he likes and remembers, and keeping company with them, as well as someone to talk to. Someone who will listen.
We all do that with our pets, talk to them, knowing that they love us, and don’t judge us.
Finally, someone comes along that Red Dog chooses over the rest, and that’s John, played by Josh Lucas. I don’t know why, but I’ve never been the biggest Josh Lucas fan, this film turned that around for me, I didn’t dislike him by any means, I just wasn’t a fan. That gets turned around as of this picture. John played by Josh is a fun likable guy, who gets wrapped up in a dog’s life, and the two are forever changed by that relationship.
Not only are those two changed, but the entire community is, romance blooms, and people are united by their common love of this exceptional dog.
John, thanks to Red Dog, meets Nancy played by Rachael Taylor, and watching their relationship grow under Red Dog’s initially jealous eye is heart-warming.
None of the relationships, despite the trappings of an ‘animal film’ are played lightly, they all feel real. Yes there is comedic things attached to them, but there is just as much drama tied into them as well.
Everyone has come to Dampier for a reason, yes there’s the money, but some people just need to get away from their past as well. It is through the stories that we learn secrets and see how Red Dog helps each and everyone of those in the little town.
That is until two things happen.
And tragedy strikes.
When it did, it knocked me on my ass. I didn’t expect it, and I was a wreck, showing me that I was more involved with this film and the characters than I had even thought. I realized then, that this wasn’t just another cute dog movie, there was more substance to it than that.
After the tragedy strikes, the legend that is Red Dog begins, which I won’t spoil for those who don’t know the story. I didn’t and the emotional impact of it is so much stronger because of it. He becomes the Pilbara Wanderer, and like the tagline says, he’s been everywhere mate.
The film is gorgeously shot, the story is tightly written and engaging, the actors seem to be naturals for their characters, as is the dog. Koko is expressive, and the director gets an amazing performance out of him. Have a look at his ‘audition’ here…
Now as I mentioned, there is some serious tragedy that strikes in the film, so if you’ve got kids, you may want to view first yourself to tell whether or not they can handle it. I was pretty weepy, that’s all I’ll say. Like I said near the top of the review, the town is holding a vigil for a dying dog.
But if you’re family is up for it, it’s a fantastic film experience. Yes, some of it’s sad, but there are some serious laughs, great stories, wonderful moments, and so much hope and love at the end of the film.
There are few films that I sit back and say I can heartily recommend it, but this is one.
It’s available now for sale on DVD and Blu-Ray in Australia, if you have a multi-region player, you should do yourself a favor and pick it up. It’s also going into a limited run in the UK right now, so if you live there, take a look.
I’m honestly hoping to see a Canadian release, cause I would love to see the sweeping imagery of Australia on the big screen, and share this experience with lots of theater goers.
I’ll say again, it’s fantastic!
Take a look at this trailer and decide for yourself…