“Heartwarming and well written”
Editorial Rating: 3 Stars: Nae Bad
This year the 70th edition of the Edinburgh International Film Festival brought a wide range of films and documentaries home to Scotland. We took a look at the world premiere of Philip John’s Moon Dogs – a Scottish coming-of-age film – released on the 17th of June 2016.
Two step-brothers Michael (Jack Parry-Jones) and Thor (Christy O’Donnell) are thrown together through their parents’ marriage and the relationship between the two is far from perfect. Michael is a temperamental, slightly gullible young lad who having just finished high school is trying to figure out his future. Thor is the more quiet, reserved, artistic type who prefers to lock himself in his room to focus on his music and block out the rest of the world.
For their own individual reasons they decide to embark on a trip from their home on Shetland to Glasgow. With no money or any idea how they will get to there, they are lucky – or perhaps unlucky – to meet the wild, free-spirited yet slightly troubled young woman Caitlin (Tara Lee) who decides to accompany them on their journey.
The story focuses on the trio’s travels rather than their final destination. Throughout the film there are some beautiful shots of Scottish scenery and at times it almost feels like you are on a tour through Scotland’s landscapes and its society. With brutal honesty the film shows the best and the worst sides of Scotland. The three meet a variety of characters, from kind hearted locals to cruel criminals, whom anybody in their right mind would avoid.
The script, written by Derek Boyle and Raymond Friel, brings out a range of emotions with some charming and funny exchanges but also some darker, serious moments. Although this independent drama does at times appear a little awkward and staged this could be a reflection of how the characters themselves are feeling. At the beginning the boys, despite needing one another to make their journey to Glasgow possible, are both displeased at the idea of travelling together. As they begin to warm to each other the scenes and the interaction between the three appears to become more natural, resulting in some endearing moments for the audience and some sympathetic giggling.
The casting works. Michael and Thor are naive through their sheltered upbringing and young age and actors Parry-Jones and O’Donnell are very authentic in their roles. Tara Lee gives a captivating performance as Caitlin, although her questionable decision making and flirtatious nature make her a somewhat difficult character to comprehend. Personally I found this made her quite difficult to warm to, although perhaps the point of her role is more to provoke the boys and test their boundaries rather than to be a likeable character.
I would say Moon Dogs is a heartwarming, well written film that causes much amusement as the trio battle with the hardships of their journey and with growing up – as you do!
Moondogs at the EIFF 2016 & at the British Films Directory
Reviewer: Iona Young (Seen 17 June)
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