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Film Review: Moon Dogs

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Moon Dogs is a low-budget indie from the award-winning Welsh director Phillip John. Despite his new film being both funny and well-acted, it doesn’t quite deliver in terms of story.

Credit: cinemaperspective.com

Moon Dogs follows step-brothers Michael (Jack Parry-Jones) and Thor (Christy O’Donnell) who live with their re-married parents on the Shetland Islands. After Michael misses out on university due to Thor keeping him out late before an exam, they decide to trek to Glasgow together in order to check up on Michael's now distant girlfriend Suzy (Kate Bracken).

Along the road, the pair encounter the troublesome Caitlin (Tara Lee), also on route to Glasgow to take part in a local music competition. As the three journey on, feelings for the promiscuous Caitlin blossom in the troubled step-brothers, which threaten to damage their already fragile relationship.

The majority of the cast is made up of younger actors, all of whom are really impressive in the film. Newcomers Jack Parry-Jones and Christy O’Donnell are both great to watch and really get into their roles as the naive youngsters. Tara Lee is also great, and steals a lot of the early scenes of the three travelling together. The film portrays Caitlin as a powerful character throughout, and in several scenes she shows the extent of her dominance over the step-brothers in the subtlety of her performance. Lee does very well to fully show this. 

The film is also quite funny for the most part. Michael in particular has some really good moments such as failing to explain the game ‘Fuzzy Ducky’ and humorously exerting frustration at Thor. The humour breaks up some of the film’s more serious undertones and keeps it feeling like a coming of age drama with a lot of the jokes stemming from teenage issues.

Moon Dogs is also skilfully filmed by director Phillip John with some great looking shots of Scotland and the Shetland Islands. For a film with a budget the size of Moon Dogs’, the cinematography is definitely impressive.

In terms of writing however, the film is less successful. A lot of the dialogue is quite on the nose, especially with Caitlin, who at times is not so subtle in explaining the point of some scenes. The actors do their best with some of the more mundane dialogue but all in all, it just feels a bit clunky.

Unfortunately, it’s not only the dialogue that suffers, as the plot is also weakened by some of the writing choices. So much is going on for each character and, whilst this does help to give each of them some more depth, it also serves to heavily convolute the plot. The conflict surrounding the step-brothers because of Caitlin, Michael’s dilemma with his girlfriend, Thor’s family issues, and even a side story involving Thor’s dad are all in the mix. With a runtime of an hour and a half, there’s not enough time to develop all of these plotlines well enough and this leaves the film feeling half-baked.

The ending is also fairly disappointing with some odd character decisions leading to a conclusion which doesn’t fully answer what the point of the film was.

Overall, Moon Dogs does showcase some great young acting talent with Parry-Jones and O’Donnell sure to have bright futures ahead of them. The acting, along with the humour and look of the film, is just enough to redeem its overly-packed story.

Moon Dogs, directed by Phillip John, is set to release in the UK on September 1st, Certificate 15.

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