Film School: Red Dog rising

Film School: Red Dog rising
Reviewed by Emma Plant
Josh Lucas and "Koko" star in Australia's latest cinematic hit.
You probably didn’t look twice at the advertisements last time you were movie-a-go-go. Post hearing the words “Red Dog” and literally viewing a Red Dog poster, one might assumingly think, ‘Oh, dear, red-neck-appaloosa!’ Surprisingly, this little Australian yarn has taken aback audiences as a box office beauty. Cinemas across Australia have made room for increased showings given its unexpected success.

Red Dog tells the story (true story, mind you!) of a dog, aptly named ‘Red Dog’, who brings together the shire of Dampier, a mining community in Western Australia. Set in sun-drenched, 1980s Australia, the story has a beautiful nostalgia and familiarity about it. In drawing loose comparisons, with its many lovely short stories, Red Dog may be the Jackeroo version of Love Actually.

If you are like me, you may be a certified sap for an animal narrative. I will weep during Animal Hospital. I am drawn to news stories concerning heroic pets. The last movie I cried in was actually Finding Nemo. If you identify with this, you will love Red Dog. If you don’t, the coy dialogue and larrikin parody will keep you seated. While there is a generous amount of humour, Red Dog also plays an overall uplifting experience. Who else but a dog could demonstrate loyalty and unconditional love so effectively?

How do these movies with animals as the protagonists always trump ‘people movies’ (is that a genre)? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that these endearing main characters cannot speak; consequently they cannot argue, express opinions or have an inane voice. Most animal heroes are unlikely to offend. A silent character always offers us the opportunity to project our own thoughts onto them. The audience gets to author the nature of this character; we see our ultimate values and ourselves in their face – even if it is a pooch.

Australian audiences have long tendered a love affair with ‘underdog’ stories. The Castle, The Nugget, Forrest Gump or, more recently, The Blind Side and The Fighter, all underdog films, have polled some of the nation’s favourites. It could be that our most populous social class relates to these films, or it could be the uplifting themes they reveal; the wholesome themes we don’t see as much as we previously have (Underbelly Razor, anyone?). Red Dog, this year’s underdog film (had to be said), should be on your movie bucket list.

Emma @ Girl With a Satchel


Catherine @ The Spring said...

I'm glad Red Dog is getting such positive attention. Coming from another country with a small population and consequently small domestic film industry - Canada - I find value in supporting local cinema. When there are only a few films self-consciously representing a nation and it's character, they tend towards cliche, convention, and over-sappification of a particular kind of mythos. The more films we have to reflect our image back to us the more nuanced and interesting they can become. I'm not sure which category Red Dog falls into, but either way it sounds like a sweet film and one that will bring people out to the theatres to celebrate their own lived experience rather than someone else's.
Love the blog - and don't forget to stop by The Spring to link up as a fellow QLD blogger!
- Catherine