Swedish film director Lasse Hallström hit international fame with this very touching coming-of-age classic about a young boy’s misadventures in a small town.
Ingemar is a young boy in 1950’s Sweden, whose mother, a one-time aspiring photographer, is terminally ill. What doesn’t help is that Ingemar is constantly getting himself in troublesome situations and as a result, the stress causes his mother to be bedridden. When Ingemar’s mother is deemed too ill to take care of both him and his brother Erik, Ingemar is sent to a small town where his uncle Gunnar and aunt Ulla live.
It is here where Ingemar’s life begins to change for the better. The town is full of eccentric characters. During a soccer match, Ingemar finds a friend in Manne, a young boy with green hair and the very athletic Saga, who is a girl dressed as a boy because of her love of sports. Ingemar also has his first true crush on Gunnar’s co-worker Berit, who is asked to pose for a local sculptor.
Based on a novel by Reidar Jönsson, the film stands out due to its eccentric cast of characters and a look at life from Ingemar’s perspective. Ingemar compares himself to Laika, the dog from Russia sent to space in the 1950’s, hence the title. Alongside his comparison, Ingemar also finds solace in his own dog, Sickan. There are some sad moments in the film that will make viewers shed a tear or two, but there is some comic relief to the film, such as the character of Mr. Arvidsson, whose house Ingemar sleeps in and asks Ingemar to read racy underwear catalogs to him when the Mrs. isn’t around and Mr. Fransson, who spends most of the time trying to fix his roof.
The film takes an interesting turn when it comes to the potential relationship between Ingemar and Saga. At first, Saga acts all tough for Ingemar, but as she helps him with boxing and spends time with him, she begins to have a soft spot for him. It is not long before the tomboyish Saga actually begins to have a crush on Ingemar and when they have a falling out, Saga gets jealous of Ingemar acting all cutesy with a fellow classmate.
When Saga confront the classmate at her birthday party, Ingemar begins to bark at Saga, like a dog. This brings further meaning to the title in a more literally sense whereas Ingemar brings a more subliminal meaning to the title throughout the film. The twist of Ingemar actually barking like a dog brings some sort of comic relief until Saga says something very offensive.
Uncle Gunnar not only helps with some comic relief when he is goalie at a men’s soccer game and gets clocked in the head, he becomes Ingemar’s father figure and at times, true conscience. As Ingemar didn’t have a father figure and relied only on his mother, it was only fitting that his uncle would become his father figure and shows Ingemar at times the finer points of life. Aunt Ulla doesn’t offer much in her role, but one can’t help laughing when she gets all upset when Gunnar, who in the first half of the film is building a small hut, plays the same record over and over again.
If you are in the mood for a heartwarming tale about life and its challenges, My Life as a Dog is truly a delightful film to watch. The movie was remade into a bland television series in 1996.
WFG RATING: A+
Skouras Pictures presents a Svensk Filmindustri production. Director: Lasse Hallström. Producer: Waldemar Bergendahl. Writers: Lasse Hallström, Reidar Jönsson, Brasse Bränneström, and Per Berglund; based on the novel by Jönsson. Cinematography: Jörgen Persson. Editing: Christer Furubrand and Susanne Linnman.
Cast: Anton Glanzelius, Tomas von Brömssen, Anki Lidén, Melinda Kinnaman, Kicki Rundgren, Ing-Mari Carlsson, Leif Ericson, Christina Carlwind, Jan-Philip Hollström, Manfred Serner, Didrik Gustafsson, Vivi Johansson, Magnus Rask.