Eye For Film >> Movies >> Dog Lady (2015) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
There is barely a word spoken in this poetic Argentinian film, but from its opening shots, we are plunged into a landscape of sound. Birds twitter, the undergrowth rustles, trees sigh in the wind. Dogs pant, dogs everywhere, running, exploring, sniffing out prey. We are hunting. The woman with them has a sharp stick and a catapult. She stuffs their catches into a cloth bag. They will carry them home to eat.
Home is a shack among the trees, rebuilt season by season. There's a hammock outside where she lies sometimes, curled up with a dog or two. Somebody is always alert to tiny sounds, the way one learns to be when seeking prey, when seeking to void predators. Although she has friendships with humans, the woman's behaviour is almost completely animal. She doesn't speak, though she communicates affection easily. She is confident but wary. Greeted by a passing woman who seems familiar with her, she doesn't react at all; the woman seems unfazed. Spotting strangers or people who might mean trouble, she stands her ground, watching from a distance, until they make way for her. The dogs flow around her. She isn't seeking conflict but she asserts their right to pass through this territory.
Centering on a beautifully observed performance by co-director Verónica Llinás, this is a film that treats its outsider heroine with dignity and reminds the viewer what it really takes to survive in this way. There are no Badlands-style fantasy treehouses emerging overnight, no guns and posturing. There are plastic bottles collected from rubbish tips and hammered flat to create a rainproof screen; water collected in pots and pans and stored in an old oil drum; endless small tokens of our heroine's skill and ingenuity. She knows exactly where to go to find the things she needs, and the dogs' behaviour tell us that they do, too - and that these are scenes which have had many rehearsals.
Dog Lady follows this woman through four seasons in what might - a visit to the city hospital suggests - be her last year. Ostensibly simple and beautifully filmed, it always has something going on, showing us the richness of her life and how full it is, even far from civilisation. Her body is ageing but strong, her muscles toned, her senses keen; the film plunges us into the same sensory space. It's beguiling and immersive, an invitation to set aside your day to day concerns and join the pack, to focus on being alive.Reviewed on: 30 Jan 2016