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flick pick | My Life as a Dog 1985
Directed by: Lasse Hallström
Written by: Reidar Jönsson, Lasse Hallström
Starring: Anton Glanzeliua, Tomas von Brömssen, Anki Lidén, Melinda Kinnaman
Language: Swedish [with English subtitles or dubbed]
Look for it at the video store under: foreign [Sweden], drama
Watch it when you’re in the mood for
something: nostalgic, whimsical  
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5 

Plot synopsis Twelve-year old Ingemar doesn't mean to cause trouble. He doesn't need his bossy older brother to remind him constantly that their sickly single mother needs peace and quiet if she's going to get better. But the problem is, the harder oddball Ingemar tries to be good, be normal, walk on eggshells around his formerly fun mom, the more frequently trouble seems to seek him out. Ingemar's just a disaster magnet - he pees his bed at night, can't drink his milk without spilling it, drops big bowls of batter on the kitchen floor, gets caught snuggling with his best girl friend by the girl's irate dad (and it wasn't even Ingemar's idea!) But when he accidentally sets a raging fire at the town dump, it's the last straw. A family friend makes arrangements for Ingemar and his brother to be shipped off to different relatives for a few months, to give their poor mom a chance to recuperate without having to constantly fret about her kids. At first, Ingemar's upset about having to leave his beloved dog behind, but life at his Uncle Gunnar's proves surprisingly wonderful for Ingemar. Able to act like a normal 12-year-old for the first time in ages, Ingemar finds himself involved in all sorts of minor adventures with the small town's many eccentrics. 

Review My Life as a Dog was the first foreign movie I remember ever liking. I was fourteen years old, or thereabouts, when I first saw it, and at a summer camp for adolescent geeks (the more p.c., official term was actually "talented youth")—and I still remember my surprise at realizing that a movie that didn't feature Val Kilmer acting wacky, Tom Cruise looking cute, or any member of the Brat Pack, could actually hold my attention for its entire length. In retrospect, My Life as a Dog, with its strong undercurrent of budding sexuality amongst young adolescents, seems an odd choice to show to a bunch of, well, young adolescents, all living away from home for the summer, and many for the first time. (Rest assured though: we were geeks, remember? There was no hanky-panky to be had amidst that crowd.) Still, it's precisely the willingness to be honest about sexuality and youth that makes this incredibly charming film more than just a piece of lightweight, innocuous fluff. Instead there's a little of the bitter mixed in with the sweet, which makes the quaintness of the nutty characters and small-town life seem lovably quirky, where in the hands of a less-talented filmmaker, they might have been nauseatingly saccharine. My Life as a Dog finds just the right balance between sadness and joy, loopiness and the painfully real, to make it one coming-of-age movie that's a complete pleasure to watch. —reviewed by Y. Sun

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