My Life as a Dog (Mitt Liv som Hund)

Critics Consensus

A coming-of-age story with uncommon depth and sensitivity, My Life as a Dog is sweet, sincere, and utterly charming.

100%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 32

90%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,950
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Movie Info

In 1959 Sweden, young Ingemar (Anton Glanzelius) lives with his dying mother and his nasty older brother. He survives all of life's knocks by comparing himself to those who are worse off--such as Laika, the little Russian space dog who was rocketed to his death and had nothing to say in the matter. Ingemar begins to identify with Laika more and more as his mother's health deteriorates, at times dropping to all fours and baying at the moon. When his mother is advised to get some peace and quiet away from her children, Ingemar is sent to live with his loveable uncle and aunt. For the first time, the boy is surrounded by relatives and classmates who pose no threat and who genuinely like him. He even has a sexual awakening. When his mother dies, he no longer rationalizes his misfortunes by comparing himself to those less fortunate; from now on, he can conjure up pleasant memories of his summer away from home to sustain him through the hard times. My Life as a Dog (Mitt Liv Som Hund) is based on the autobiographical novel by Reidar Jonsson.

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Critic Reviews for My Life as a Dog (Mitt Liv som Hund)

All Critics (32) | Top Critics (3)

Audience Reviews for My Life as a Dog (Mitt Liv som Hund)

  • Aug 06, 2014
    Man, if I was a dog, I would yell over, and over, and over, and over, and over again, stink, drool profusely, jump on people, and have people think that I'm more intelligent than cats because I humor their orders. No, I'm kidding... because I'm too smart to ever be a dog, although I would make one dynamite cat, and if you have something to say about that, well, you clearly don't go for a lot of walks in the suburbs which you're hoping might actually be peaceful. Man, even if it's just symbolic, this kid must have a tough life being some stinky, ugly little mutt. ...Yeah, the fact that he's a little off, and has to move in with his extended family because his cruel mother is dying is sad and all, but his being the definitive example that ignorance begets bliss is really what's depressing about this film. Well, this film can't be too sad for too long, because we are talking about a film by Lasse Hallström, a guy well-known for taking sad stories, and then ultimately lifting you up at the end, after he spent so much bumming you out, although, to be fair, we are talking about Swedish entertainment in the '80s. I don't know how into the black metal movement the guy who went on to make "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" was, but if this was the '90s, with The Flower Kings, this would be strictly upbeat Swedish entertainment. As it stands, this film challenges, and yet, as decent as it is, it stands to compel a little bit more, and would have if it wasn't for certain aspects. A somewhat experimental drama, this film hits a few genuinely refreshing moments, and when it doesn't, through contrast with the unique touches, the conventions are glaring, particularly when they take the form of sentimentality. Lasse Hallström even showcased high tenderness in the homeland, before he came to America to make more commercially successful melodramas, and just like many of his American projects, this film's genuinely effective touches break up a rather cheesily sentimental atmosphere which isn't exactly a height in the film's overblown extremes in fluffiness. The film can get carried away with its dramatics, and it can get carried away with its moments of relief, hitting some cornball filler, some of which isn't even especially believable in its trying so hard to liven things up. Still, no matter how much the writers try to color things up, Hallström incorporates his trademark thoughtfulness, which simply devolves to blandness upon running out of material to soak up, an occurrence which is common, due to repetitious filler that at least pads out the individual segments to a point of aimlessness. The film is structured a little episodically, and it certainly feels that way, as its structure is a little uneven, and it's not as though all of the layers blend together into an especially grand plot or anything like that. This is a minimalist coming-of-age drama, and it doesn't exactly offer a great deal of potential, yet there's still enough of it lost through tropes, sentimentality and unevenness in pacing and structure to secure the final product as borderline forgettable. Hallström has done better, but you can feel his heart in this passion project, particularly when it comes to his plays on tasteful aesthetic elements. For my fellow fans of "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?", I note the presence of score composer Björn Isfält, whose classic, if a tad formulaic taste in subtle and lovely whimsy adds to the taste of the film, like cinematography by Jörgen Persson which is honestly not especially special on the whole, but haunting in its stressing of dreamy lighting that immerses you in the imaginativeness of this film's subject matter. Now, in terms of scale and a sense of weight, not much imagination is put into novelist Reidar Jönsson's semi-autobiographical tale, but there is still a lot of heart and honesty in this coming-of-age opus about a boy of imagination and ignorance coming to terms with harsh realities. There is some potential to this story concept, and Lasse Hallström, Brasse Brännström and Per Berglund do what they can to do it justice with a script that, despite the conventions, cheese and bloatings, offers plenty of colorful set pieces and humanly heartfelt characterization that, honestly, might be a little lacking in dynamicity. It's hard to realize this, as the performances are so rich, with just about everyone delivering on some sort of charm, or some sort of dramatic resonance, to define his or her character as well-rounded. Even young lead Anton Glanzelius, in spite of not exactly being a show-stealer, does a fine job of driving the show, with a tender and often moving vulnerability which makes him more than efficient as a cog in the system of telling a heavy story through the eyes of an innocent lad. Of course, Hallström does about as much as anyone to keep the heart of this drama pumping, getting either blandly subdued or near-cheesily sentimental, but only because his delicate touches go met with questionable material, the highlights of which are glazed with Hallström's tastefulness, charged by subtle style which smoothly immerses and resonates, resulting in some powerful moments to break up recurrent entertainment value. I can't see this film coming to the level of, say, "The Cider House Rules", much less, "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?", but I do wish this was a more consistent showcase of Hallström's abilities, and yet, with that said, there's enough heart to keep this effort pumping, even if it's for only so far. When it's time for the dog to lay, occasions of conventions, moments of sentimentality, and plenty of cheese throughout a sometimes bland, uneven and overlong telling of a thin story secure the final product as underwhelming, while tasteful score work and cinematography, worthy subject matter, and heartfelt scripting, acting and direction make Lasse Hallström's "My Life as a Dog" an entertaining and often touching, if forgettable coming-of-age drama. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Sep 18, 2013
    As I watched this delightful Swedish film, I found myself wondering if the boy, Ingemar was mentally ill, or just starved for attention. But, after a while his personality traits began to endear themselves to me. The film is a bittersweet look at a boy whose mother is dying of what appears to be TB, and winds up being shipped off to an uncle's house. Ingemar soon finds himself fitting in with a group of misfits who populate the town, from the old man downstairs who wants Ingemar to read to him from a lingerie catalog to the tomboy who just wants to play on the town soccer team as long as she can and the boy with the green hair who dreams of space travel. Quirky characters abound, but it is the emotional journey of young Ingemar that drives the film. Lovely touches of humor abound and I found myself chuckling throughout. A beautiful film, given the Criterion Blu-ray treatment. I have yet to watch the extras, but there is an interview with Lasse Hallstrom and an early 52 minute film of his included on the NF copy. Highly recommended!
    Mark A Super Reviewer
  • Apr 11, 2013
    Cast off by his ailing mother, a boy comes of age. Reminiscent of the masterful <i>400 Blows</i>, this Swedish coming-of-age drama is remarkably compelling. The conflicts between Ingemar and his brother, Ingemar and his peers, and Ingemar and the fate that leaves him feeling unwanted and unloved walk the fine line between accessible and subtle. These plots work on every level, but what is more is Lasse Hallstrom's direction. Visual metaphors like the cart stuck in the middle of the road and the children covered in shit but innocently laughing at the ride convey the film's bittersweet mood and advance the theme. And what is this theme? That life is filled with unanswerable questions and misfortune, but sometimes we can still enjoy the ride. I thought the exposition lasted longer than it should, and it took the film a long time to get Ingemar into any compelling conflict. Overall, this is a very strong art film and another example of how great Swedish cinema, the home of Bergman, is.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Mar 05, 2013
    Absolutely loved it. Long known to me as a break through film for Hallstrom, this movie came through with all the anticipated charm.
    John B Super Reviewer

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