Monday, 21 August 2017

Moon Dogs. Well worth a watch.



Michael and Thor are 2 stepbrothers living unhappy lives in the Shetland Islands. Michael wants to leave and go to college in Glasgow with his girlfriend Suzy and Thor just wants to be left alone to make his music. After an accident stops Michael going to college and leaves him in a job he hates he decides to go to Glasgow anyway and Thor tags along for personal reasons of his own. Along the way they meet a mysterious and beautiful woman who throws a spanner in the works.

I liked this a lot. But had some reservations too.

It's an entertaining, poignant, funny and thoughtful film from the opening scenes of a cringe worthy sexual encounter to its satisfying ending. It's has all the tropes of a teenage drama, getting caught during "alone time", making a fool of yourself in school, familial strife, trying to find your place in the world etc but it also has just enough of an edge to make proceedings slightly unpredictable too. Unpredictability is an element that's always welcome in a story like this. It also has that celtic sensibility that so many Irish and Scottish films have, that blend where you are laughing one minute and uneasy the next, that mix of humour tinged with sadness that we do so well. Must be something in our DNA.

It portrays that feeling of wanting to get away very convincingly. The fear of getting stuck in a place and a job you hate. The desperation when you need to just get away. The resentment that gets seeded when you see no way out. It's makes you instantly empathise with the leads because most of us know it well. It also shows something a lot of films shy away from. The cruelty that can exist between siblings. The niggling, the digs, the tension that can quickly erupt into something worse. It's nice to see while not being nice to see, if you know what I mean.





Moondogs is an Irish funded film set in the Shetland Islands and Scotland. A love letter to the beauty of the country. It's gorgeous looking and really makes the most of its scenery. From the panoramic valleys and vales of Scotland to the majesty of its isles and even down to a pile of coloured dust dancing on an upturned speaker. Director Philip John has a great eye.

The lead roles are played by Jack Parry-Jones as Michael and Christy O'Donnell as Thor (don't worry, there's a good reason for his name and it ain't Marvel related). They are both great. Their relationship feels real. Strained, awkward, annoying but you still get the sense that there's history there and they both care for each other under it all. Jones get the showier role but O'Donnell gets the one with more depth and a few very moving moments late in the tale. They both do excellent work.

Tara Lee plays her part as Caitlin very well and with the same enigmatic air she put to great use in 2016's wonderful 'A Date For Mad Mary' but her role is my main issue with the film. It just feels quite underwritten. She just seems to be there as a catalyst that causes trouble between the brothers and to move the story along. Moments just seem to come out of nowhere. Her motivations feel muddled and her actions sometimes feel at odds with the tone of the film. One scene tbh, wouldn't feel out of place in a Saw movie. Yeah I know this sounds odd but when you see it you'll understand. That said, Tara Lee does well with the material given to her. I can't fault her.

A couple of reservations aside this is good stuff. It will stay in your head for a while. It's a story about not pushing people away, about making lemonade when life gives you lemons. It's about learning to be happy with the little things.

Hopefully it will get a wide release in Irish cinemas. It's well worth a watch.


 

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