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Dogs Don't Wear Pants - Film Review

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Published June 21st 2020
A dark story of loss, love and the sweet pain of being
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Images © Helsinki-Filmi, Tasse Film

Dogs Don't Wear Pants is a Finnish film with subtitles, available on VOD from 1 July via Google Play, iTunes, Fetch and Umbrella Entertainment.

Following a tragic event in his life, Juha, a surgeon, is left emotionally bereft, struggling each day to stay engaged, barely registering the existence of his daughter Elli (Jai Volanen). By chance, accompanying Elli for an appointment, he wanders into the backroom of a BDSM venue and is choked into semi-consciousness by parlour mistress Mona, the dominatrix who is affronted by his intrusion into her domain. Her attack strangely energises his senses and he goes back time and again as a client and grows dependent on Mona's skills. Obsessed, his grip on life and sanity is in question in the workplace.

Starring two of the most prominent actors in Finland, Krista Kosonen as Mona and Pekka Strang as Juha, this film of BDSM needed no less than actors of their calibre and presence to make it work, as the film is quite light in terms of dialogue. A film by J-P Valkeapää, a critically acclaimed and awarded Finnish film director who wrote the script, it was challenging as a writer to give the characters something of substance to work with, so as to not make them one dimensional, and that was done successfully.

In spite of the subject, the film is first and foremost about people, love, loss, and the sweet pain of being. With very little dialogue, it was vital that the actors met the brief; that communication was all in the eyes. These professionals didn't skip a beat. Their performances, especially Krista as Mona is sharp as a whip and Strang manages to maintain a balance between deadpan humour and a smothered existence with a touch of awkwardness. He is not to be underestimated as he takes you on his journey from being a somewhat bland character to the sheer joy of letting loose in abandonment.

This would have been a rather heavy subject to carry and too dark to work if it had not been for a slither of dark Nordic humour perfectly timed. Some of the scenes might make you wince a little, including the plucking of a fingernail, yet it's not out to shock or be extreme. However, those red scenes of Mona in latex and character-driven wigs are perfection. Her movement, her sharp reactions - all perfectly timed and executed. Her shades of light and dark for her day and dominatrix characters are sublime. She's a joy to watch.

This film demands not just your sight, but your listening skills as the sound design is what adds all the layers of emotions to your viewing experience. This is a film about a man who needs to travel to breaking point, to perhaps live again.

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