Director: Kriv Stenders
Cast: Josh Lucas, Rachael Taylor, Rohan Nichol, Arthur Angel, John Batchelor, Luke Ford, Noah Taylor, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Bill Hunter, Koko
Synopsis: A film based on the true story of a dog imaginatively named Red Dog that was owned by the entire town of Dampier. When American John comes to town, though, Red Dog meets his one true master to whom he remains unfailingly loyal.
The prospect of a story of a dog that defines a community on the surface of it appears very mundane and cliché. Yet if one makes the choice not to see Red Dog on that basis alone, then that would be a real shame. Despite the cliché, here is a beautifully crafted film that lovingly depicts a small Australian town of a bygone era, and through the exploits of this titular animal we learn their stories and exactly why a canine could win the hearts of many.
The film is told in retrospect to a newcomer to town as the town is subdued given to the fact that Red Dog is ill, apparently poisoned. Publican Jack (Noah Taylor) begins the story, of the dog that belonged to everyone, but no-one. As the story progresses, we are given the viewpoint of several different members of the community, each having a story of this canine’s impact on their lives. These stories are often humorous, they are sometimes sad, and yet all end in an uplifting way. Beware of the sadder stories however, as some of them require tissues. The central story really takes flight however with the introduction of Lucas as John, the man with whom Red Dog bonds, and makes his owner. This central story is the real heart of the film, and rarely has the loyalty of an animal for its master been quite so brilliantly portrayed.
The retrospective story format gives each actor in the ensemble cast a moment to shine. Nichol, Angel, and Batchelor, as three of the miners living in Dampier, are all amazing. Nichols has one of the more poignant side-stories, and he is able to successfully introduce some significant drama about two-thirds of the way through the film. Angel, as an Italian Ex-Pat, and Batchelor as the stereotypical bloke’s bloke inject a lot of humour into their own storylines, and are a true on-screen delight. Lucas I must say plays his role pretty straightforwardly, but it works for the role. When Rachael Taylor’s Nancy enters the fray as his love interest, they share a believable chemistry which does make for a sweet story.
The 1970’s Western Australia setting also does a lot to impart the film with its own easy charm. It depicts an Australia that does not exist anymore, at least not in the big cities. It is a small town, everyone knows each other, and everyone treats each other fairly, even if it is with a heavy dose of tongue in cheek. If this film can be successful in getting an audience, it has the potential to become a true Australian classic!
5 stars out of 5.