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New Release Review - Down Dog

An immature man is forced to grow up when fooled into believing he has a terminal illness.

Review by Andy Comer

Directed by: Andres Dussan

Starring: Jason Durr, Nick Moran, Orla O'Rourke, Tom Goodman-Hill



Frank is a divorced, sex addicted alcoholic who barely knows his son, and his ex-wife, Rachel, is tired of all of his shenanigans. After hearing about how a friend’s husband straightened his life out after finding out about a tumor, Rachel convinces Frank’s doctor to tell him that he is dying. Obviously, Frank’s world is flipped on its head as he tries to cope with the idea that he has less than a year to live. It's not the most original of situations, but where Down Dog gets it right is in its relationships. With Frank having a handful of complex relationships with his lady friends and his boss, the film’s core is the dynamic between Frank and his son, Sam.
Jason Durr, as Frank, does a great job of capturing the roller coaster of emotion that his character goes through on his journey of finally growing up. He makes an effortless transition from the life of the party, as he drinks and screws each night away, to depressingly sad, as his life crumbles around him, to surprisingly touching as he reconnects with his son and ex-wife. Speaking of his wife, Orla O’Rourke plays a slew of characters in this, and does an exceptional job transforming into each with such grace and ease that I didn’t even realise she was all three women until halfway through the film. But to be honest, there isn’t a weak cast member in here, and the majority of the dynamics between each of the characters is spot on to deliver the largest impact on Frank’s journey.
At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter how good the actors are, or how well they mesh together on screen if the story is boring and lifeless. Here, the filmmakers were able to craft a familiar story with unique characters to make a touching film about a man-child finally growing up and taking control of his life. Don’t get me wrong, the film has its flaws in Frank’s journey, the most apparent of which is the majority of Ella’s scenes. At times it seems to hint that something is going on between Ella and Sam, but nothing ever comes of it, thus making me feel like most of their interactions were just a time filler. Then there is all of the abuse she gets from her father; it all seems forced and without reason beyond showing how big of a douche her father/Frank’s boss is.
Ultimately, Down Dog is pretty exceptional in its execution of the story that is Frank’s midlife crisis. With only a couple missteps in a few scenes, the film still stands up well against previous movies that share similar themes. This is in no small part to the strong efforts of some pretty good actors, especially that of Durr and O’Rourke, as their relationship, or should I say relationships, are the driving force of the film.




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