Many of the Australian movies made in the last 20 years have been fairly dour and humourless affairs about death, murder, violence, crime, mental illness and other such dark and depressing topics. Check out movies like The Square, Black Balloon, Wolf Creek, The Boys, Animal Kingdom, Romper Stomper, Bad Boy Bubby, Noise, Snowtown (possibly the most unrelentingly oppressive and disturbing movie this writer has ever seen), the list just goes on and on. Of course there are exceptions, and these are all brilliant pieces of cinema in their own ways, but it seems to be an ongoing theme developing in Australian film.
However, and speaking of exceptions, bucking (or maybe barking?) this trend in a big way is Red Dog, which to sum up in a single word is quite simply a joy. A simple but highly effective and engaging tale of a single, exceptional canine's effect on the rough and ready inhabitants of a remote mining community in coastal Western Australia. There is little to no plot to speak of, but this isn't that kind of movie. The title character's misadventures, personality and the manner in which the supporting cast (ie, the humans, and one non-human) respond to him more than sustain the viewer's interest and carry the movie's hour and a half length.
Several luminaries of Australian cinema, such as Noah Taylor, Bill Kerr (in what must have been one of his very last films) and Rachael Taylor lend their talents to this Aussie gem, but to a man, or woman, they are content to stand back and let the four legged actor take centre stage throughout.
Apparently based on a true story, Red Dog is sad (although in a poignant, rather than depressing way), funny, uplifting, offbeat and just doggone entertaining all at once. For a charming alternative to the downbeat offerings that Australian cinema has served up in recent times, make Red Dog a priority on your 'movies to see' list. One of the best films of the year, no question.