Review: Love Dog – Cineuropa

– Bianca Lucas presents an intriguing feature debut following a severed soul adrift in twilight Mississippi

John Dick in love dog

Raised between Switzerland, Norway and Poland, and trained through Sarajevo Film Academy’s Film.Factory (a project led by Bela Tarr), young director Bianca Lucas debuts with drama love dog [+see also:
film profile
which was presented as part of the 75th Locarno Film Festivalof the Cineasti del Presente section and which deliberately flirts with the documentary form. The result is an impalpable and cruelly realistic story, more closely based on feelings than on real and concrete events.

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The story told in love dog appears straightforward. It depicts the tortured daily life of John (John Dicks, in his first on-screen role) who is grappling with the pain of his girlfriend’s death. We don’t know much about John, other than the fact that he recently moved back to his hometown in Mississippi. The pieces of the puzzle necessary to understand the malaise that inhabits him are offered to us as we go along, both by telephone calls and rare conversations with family members and friends, who come to see him. and which alert us to the fact that his girlfriend committed suicide and that John then moved from Texas to Mississippi. The sporadic flashbacks present in the film are the only moments where we see our partner’s face. Rounding out this somewhat murky portrait is a dog that once belonged to John’s girlfriend, rocking into his life and stirring something buried deep within him, striking a chord so sensitive it could snap in two. .

Intentionally obsessively, love dog focuses on John, investigating his daily life beyond words and facts to explore an inner world expressed through imperceptible movements and facial expressions captured by the director in an almost documentary style. At times, his body seems so overwhelmed with genuine discomfort, with pain that stealthily becomes palpable, that it’s hard to understand where the lines lie between John as a person and John as a character. Thanks to the director’s meticulous attention to every detail and the depiction of his protagonist’s different states of mind through color (pastel colors, like Polaroid photos superimposed on the darkness of the night) and the sound (the sounds of nature that accompany songs whispered while crying) in a sometimes kinesthetic style, Bianca Lucas successfully transports us into the mind of John. The poetry given off by the film sometimes translates into a bitter need to escape a difficult private and collective reality (the latest news on Covid and the tragic restrictions that the virus brings is a constant in the life of John, who learns everything via his car radio). In that sense, the protagonist’s compulsive need to chat with strangers online in order to get lost in a mass of grotesque, spooky, frightened people is undeniably interesting.

If the personal situation in which John finds himself and the society that surrounds him, devastated by a mysterious virus, make for a decidedly dark film, there is still something that reassures us that the light (still) flickers beyond the shadows. It’s through small but meaningful encounters – with his girlfriend’s dog (with whom he shares a sense of loss), with an intriguing little girl who dreams of participating in The voiceand with a mysterious and thoughtful healer – that John learns to live again. Beyond the film’s story, it is through the director’s meticulous observation of this transformation, of John’s long-awaited redemption, that the director manages to transport us into the intimacy of his protagonist. Visually speaking, love dog fills a void that goes from an abyss to a refuge.

love dog is produced by Love Dogs (Poland) and Cárcava Cine (Mexico), in co-production with Manosanta Studios (Mexico) and Film Exchange (USA). Worldwide sales are handled by Lights On.

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(Translated from Italian)