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  • Writer's picturePerrin Faerch

Review: Dogs Don't Wear Pants (2019)

Updated: Jan 11, 2021

Original Review Date: 2 September 2020

Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (2019) is a film that is as brilliantly odd as its title suggests, yet it is a film that, on its surface, cannot be recommended to everyone. With a BDSM backdrop, this (pitch) black comedy drama suggests viewers unfamiliar and uncomfortable with this world to approach with the utmost caution.

Juha, who, years after the death of his wife in a swimming accident, is emotionally stunted and raising his teenage daughter all on his own. His grief and desire to connect with his wife continue to keep him distant from his surrounding world, until one day he accidentally comes across a dominatrix named Mona. These two end up gravitating more towards each other, finding connections that run deeper than expected.

With deep and reflective themes such as grief, human connection and identity, J-P Valkeapää cleverly opts for a highly taboo world as a disguise. The performances from our two leads are among the best of the year, offering nuance and depth to scenes that reveal deeper insight into their psyches. Scenes of asphyxiation and an excruciating (but hilarious) teeth pulling scene would be utterly meaningless if it wasn’t for the effortless depth and weight of the performers, who are led with wonderful direction and smartly written subtext.

The appropriately dark and moody atmospheric tone is perfectly captured by DOP Pietari Peltola, who manages to let us disengage with the world around us just like Juha does. He is emotionally distant and stunted, and the visuals let us feel that with him through the physical and emotional pain he endures in search of who he was, is and who he will become.

A film that intimidates with its looks and setting ultimately has a sweet and touching centre. Ital-Disco track “Take a Chance” by Mr. Flagio (a banger I might add) is the song used for the final scene with a chorus shouting “what you gonna be?”. A chorus so fitting to not only our characters, but us as well – tying all its themes and character arcs into a nice little bow. It’s a wonderfully orchestrated and performed final scene that will easily go down as one of my favourite moments of the year. Dogs Don’t Wear Pants certainly isn’t for everyone, but those willing to peel the leather back and look underneath its surface, are surely to be rewarded with something truly beautiful and profound.

You can stream Dogs Don't Wear Pants over at Shudder in the US and rent digitally on Curzon Home Cinema in the UK.

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