Dog On Trial


Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Dog On Trial
"Dosch uses the true story to make wider observations about the often fraught relationships between humans and animals." | Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

It’s not just a four-legged friend who goes on trial and faces the death penalty in the first feature by actress Laetitia Dosch who also co-wrote the screenplay. She uses the true story to make wider observations about the often fraught relationships between humans and animals.

She based the narrative around several actual cases in which dog owners were put trial for the alleged misdemeanours of their pets including one that was appealed as far as the Court of Human Rights.

Dosch has a serious philosophical mission as the law around animals has begun to evolve with such countries as the UK and France now recognising animal “sentience” .That means they can feel pain and experience fear and other emotions so should not be regarded simply as “things”.

In the film she appears as a run-of-the-mill defence counsel who takes on a seemingly hopeless case of the canine called Cosmos (played with a winning manner and many wags of the tail by Kodi) who is accused of biting the face of a Portuguese cleaner as well as attacking two other women.

Cosmos’s master (Belgian actor François Damien exuding a wild and cantankerous demeanour as a challenged outsider) who needs the animal for company as well as therapy.

Dosch, as his counsel, has to argue that the dog should be judged in its own right in what is the first case against an animal since the Middle Ages, provoking an outpouring of protests both for and against the accused in the otherwise sleepy town.

As the animal ethics experts are lined up alongside academics and philosophers plus an electronic canine speaking device the scene is set for a classic cause célèbre with the opposition provided by Anne Dorval as a politically motivated prosecutor and Mathieu Demy barely able keep awake as the judge. Jean-Claude Zadi make a lively contribution as a dog handler who gets involved with Dosch’s character.

There’s a lot going on for its slender running time but Dosch who made a strong impression with her role in Jeune Femme (Montparnasse Bienvenue) by Léonor Serraille, displays plenty of directorial artistry and invention in her first feature outing.

Reviewed on: 20 May 2024
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A young lawyer tries to save a dog from capital punishment.

Director: Laetitia Dosch

Writer: Anne-Sophie Bailly, Laetitia Dosch

Starring: Laetitia Dosch, Anabela Moreira, Anne Dorval, François Damiens, Pierre Deladonchamps, Jean-Pascal Zadi, Christian Dustour

Year: 2024

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: France


Cannes 2024

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