Good Boy


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Good Boy
"Good Boy addresses a commonplace kind of horror which we too often fail to spot even when there is every opportunity to see it coming."

Even in the most indulgent romance novels, it is usually understood that young, handsome, wealthy men are rarely single unless they have secrets. Sigrid (Katrine Lovise Øpstad Fredriksen) knows this well enough, but she’s still unprepared for what Christian (Gard Løkke) keeps hidden away in his mansion. When they go back there, he remains light-hearted and friendly. The sex they have is quite vanilla. But in the morning, she meets his dog.

This is Frank (Nicolai Narvesen Lied). He’s not a dog in the conventional sense, but a man in a dog costume. Is this puppy play? The costume doesn’t really suggest that – nor do they interact like furries. In fact, says Christian, it isn’t sexual at all – and he tells her a tale of a close friend with a traumatic past who simply can’t cope with the stresses of being out in the world. Life as a dog is better for Frank, he says, giving him a chance to heal. Sigrid is disconcerted but gradually comes round to the idea. Frank’s behaviour is quite endearing, and after all, if this is Christian’s darkest secret, it looks like she’s onto a good thing. They begin dating properly, and before long he asks her to go away with him to his cabin (what many people would consider a decent sized house) for a relaxing weekend in the countryside. She agrees, happy enough that Frank will be there too – but then events take a completely unexpected turn, and this whimsical romance lurches into horror territory.

Simply told and shot in a fresh, open style which runs counter to expectations of the genre, Good Boy addresses a commonplace kind of horror which we too often fail to spot even when there is every opportunity to see it coming. It’s a film whose colourful premise easily distracts from subtle psychological shifts which are ultimately much more important. When does a commonplace instruction become a command? When does an embrace become restrictive? Dog training is one thing but don’t we all accept training, to some extent, when we learn to abide by social rules, when we try to please?

It’s difficult to say much more about this film without giving things away. It screened at Beyond Fest in 2022 and was a hit with the audience. Solid performances and a light touch from director Viljar Bøe in the first half give it more impact than the slender premise might suggest. The dog behaviour it depicts is nicely observed and provides humour early on without mocking the idea of that lifestyle itself. It does a good job of making drastic changes in behaviour feel natural, and whilst the scenario it presents may be unlikely, the warning underlying it applies just as much to the real world.

Reviewed on: 22 Jan 2023
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Good Boy packshot
A young woman meets a handsome young millionaire and romance blossoms between them - but he lives with a man who pretends to be a dog.

Director: Viljar Bøe

Writer: Viljar Bøe

Starring: Gard Løkke, Katrine Lovise Øpstad Fredriksen, Amalie Willoch Njaastad, Nicolai Narvesen Lied

Year: 2022

Runtime: 76 minutes

Country: Norway

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