FILM REVIEW: Moon Dogs

I do like a good coming-of-age movie. And I liked Mood Dogs. It was funny, quirky and sexy. It had a decent pace, beautiful scenery and an excellent soundtrack.

Although it’s Celtic, it spoke to my Frenchness. Yes, there is quite a bit of it in this movie; the simple-yet-tightly executed plot, the moodiness, the sexiness, the sceneries, the long tracking shots, the ambiance.

I think of Cedric Klapish, and the teenagers and young adults he portrays in the charming Pot Luck and Russian Dolls. I think of a l’Effrontée (An Impudent Girl) and its moody Charlotte Gainsbourg. I think of the outrageous Blier’s Les Valseuses (Going Places), the only other movie in which I’ve seen so much dedication to sniffing fabric that was previously in contact with female genitalia. Sniffing aside, however, Moon Dogs is by no means similar to Les Valseuses, as the male duo it portrays are much more endearing.

The two main protagonists are stepbrothers from the Shetland Islands who decide to set off to Glasgow – one of them to see the girlfriend he suspects is cheating on him since she left him behind to go to university; the other one to go see his mother, who cut all ties with him when he was a young boy.

On their way they meet Caitlin – a beautiful, powerful, fearless young woman (Tara Lee) who joins them on their trip – and both fall for her, which starts the Celtic, modern, electric take on Truffaut’s Jules et Jim. As they wander from makeshift shelter to barn, as they make their way to the converted city via “borrowed” vehicles or on the back of trucks, both teenagers compete to get the girl’s attention. Caitlin’s free-spirited nature brings the sheltered stepbrothers out of their respective shells as they discover a world full of possibilities.

As I said, a fairly basic plot. It doesn’t “break bricks” as the French would say.

But the execution is very good, the actors convincing, and the scenery and soundtrack round the whole thing up nicely.

Jack Parry-Jones plays Michael, the slightly irritating, unsophisticated teenager whose ignorance is portrayed in his clumsiness in bed, his inability to hide his feelings and his immature sulking. The Inbetweener-like, cumbersome and comical teenager generates most of the laughter.

His stepbrother Thor is played by Christy O’Donnell. Thor is an awkward introvert who spends his entire time in his room making music – soundtracks he absolutely refuses for his dad to listen to as he grows more and more distant from the man who comically insists that he put on a costume and accompany him to the traditional lights festival to celebrate their Viking heritage.

The stepbrothers’ opposing personalities and their completely different approach to the impromptu road trip bring a nice depth to the movie, along with some truly funny and touching moments.

The brothers evolve alongside the beautiful and mysterious Caitlin, both falling for the incandescent, sexy girl. What teenager wouldn’t desire the enigmatic, fearless, promiscuous love interest?

Although she wants to go to Glasgow to pursue her music career, her motivations don’t come across as clear. The lack of explanation of Caitlin’s shady past and encounters combined with her absence of ties or family – the stepbrothers do have parental figures anchoring them into reality –  turn her into a bit of an enigma, make her less real. Although a strong presence, her lack of past or future turns her into a fleeting apparition. The movie has not even finished before she has already become a memory.

The aforementioned parents do play convincing parts. Michael’s mother, in her laissez-faire, slightly deluded way, and Thor’s dad as the needy parent of an increasingly distant child.

It is the quality acting and importance put into the role of all the extra characters, the excellent execution of each scene and the obvious fact that everything has been worked through to the finest detail without however giving the movie any rigidity that give it its depth and quality. And this more than makes up for the slightly unoriginal plot.

4 out of 5

Review by B. F. Jones

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Read B F Jones‘s reviews below:

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