So, White God, you guys. Jesus. It’s the tale of a young girl and her beloved dog; they become separated through a series of events too long to get into. Suffice it to say, her beloved dog is alone on the streets, trying to learn to survive, while the girl takes to the streets as well, in an effort to find her dog. Ultimately, and this isn’t really a spoiler, her dog gets caught up in a revolution of sorts as stray dogs across the city rise up against the humans that mistreat them. That sounds like a whimsical fairy tale, right? Well, it isn’t. It is, in fact, the most harrowing movie I’ve seen in at least a few years. It’s a relentlessly bleak film about how society treats those that are powerless, in this specific case, both a young girl who is powerless in the hands of the adults around her and the stray dog that is powerless in the hands of a society that wants him locked up and/or dead.
The human cast is very good, but the film becomes a masterpiece in the paws of its canine cast, over 250 dogs of all shapes and sizes; the main character, Hagen, is played by two dogs, Luke & Body, and I have to say that I have never seen an animal performance like this. I have no idea how the director went about getting the performance out of this dog. I’m dead serious when I say that it’s one of the best film performances I’ve seen this year; the complex emotions Mundruczo is able to somehow create in the eyes and face of these dogs that play Hagen is nothing short of breathtaking. But a warning: this film is not an easy sit. I genuinely can’t remember the last time I came this close to walking out of a movie because the content was too disturbing. I mean, I don’t just own a dog; I live with a dog and I love him. And during some of the harrowing sequences of animal cruelty here, I found myself just right on the verge of leaving; two scenes in particular almost drove me out – in one case, I was literally pushing myself out of my seat with the chair arms when I decided I needed to stay. It’s a devastating, unbelievably powerful movie, but it’s beyond bleak. The ending is . . . of another world; it’s like no ending I’ve ever seen. It is simultaneously one of the most beautiful endings I’ve ever seen and one of the most unbearably awful (in every sense of that word; this film is certainly awe-inspiring, but it reminds you that awe can also be part of terror, just as it can be part of joy. Well, anyway, I wrestled with this movie for days after, getting at everything it’s trying to say and coming to terms with the intense emotions it created in me. I honestly wasn’t sure if it was a monumental cinematic achievement or perhaps a well-made film that I couldn’t recommend because it was simply too dark and cruel. I came down on the good side of that debate. It’s a masterpiece. It’s one of the toughest sits I’ve ever endured in a theater (or at home actually) but it’s a film that transcends grief and beauty and sorrow to reach one of the most exalted and powerful climaxes I’ve ever seen. Yes, highly recommended. 4 stars.
tl;dr – harrowing film about a stray dog and the girl that loves him is bleak, often cruel and sorrowful, but it’s ultimately beautiful, cathartic and intense in a way films rarely are; and the central canine performance is genuinely breathtaking. 4 stars.