“Dog”: Waking Up to Your Own Reality
Andrea Arnold is known for revealing the dark underbelly of society and specific, commonly stigmatized, groups of people in it — “Dog” is no exception. Following an unnamed Girl, the film reveals the overly-stereotyped, under-individualized persona of a young, teenage girl who grows up in an abusive household. We see the cliques: tight, revealing clothing, a mother whose every uttering is a verbal abuse, the exchange of weed in a dirty apartment, and rapey, unprotected sex. With these details in mind, one could jump to a moral conclusion for this woman and assume that she is sinful, foul, asking for it, and deserving of such a lifestyle. However; with Andrea Arnold’s character study, we see that is not the case.
We are born with several factors of our life determined for us: location, family, race, sex, access to education, societal gender norms, and, arguably the most important, our initial economic status. It is clear from the very beginning that the Girl grew up in an impoverished, neglectful home, and into a family that couldn’t fiscally support her. After the stage is set and we see where she comes from, we question whether or not her elementary needs are met. Some items in life are seen as common essentials: proper food and clean water, warmth in the home, access to legitimate education, nurturing/caring parents, etc. However; that is not always the case depending on what family you’re born into. With just a few interactions shown on screen, it’s easy to assume that the Girl was born into a family that was emotionally hard on her, disciplined and questioned her, but didn’t provide answers or comfort. Over the course of this short film we see the Girl realize the position she’s in, and her want to break free.
“Dog” is a gritty, indie short film composed of gentle, minor observations that later accumulate into a dark, abrasive reality. Composed entirely of tracking shots, every moment bleeds into the next with fluid naturalism. We live and breath with the Girl as she moves through abusive behavior with a sense of normalcy. It isn’t until her boyfriend relentlessly kicks and abuses a dog that she realizes, or rather, finds confirmation in the fact that this isn’t right. Following the quick flee from her boyfriend, we see the Girl return home to her mother, who immediately beats the crap out of her. It’s hard to notice abuse when it’s all you know, and it’s even harder to get out. This film is an empathy-expanding vehicle that more people need to take out for a ride. It’s a solid showcase of what it’s like to live in captivity, before you’ve realized what you’re experiencing isn’t normal, and the resulting crave for the after.