Junebug + My Life as a Dog

Double feature: Some films depict journeys, while others are so suffused with local flavor and a sense of place as to constitute journeys in and of themselves.  “Junebug” and “My Life as a Dog” are two such films, transmitting the charms, eccentricities, and sadnesses of the American South and the Swedish countryside, respectively.

Both are so loaded with evocative, site-specific, small-town atmospherics that the very daylight captured in their frames seems to spill out of them and stream over your face.  With meta-nods to their status, both films linger over the special dispensations made for artists, and have fun with audiences’ interpretations of visual art.

At its center, each film features a remarkable character with the inner resources (some innate, some actively cultivated) to face life’s trials with bravery, hope, and melancholy cheeriness.  In “Junebug,” this character is Ashley, radiantly buoyed by faith.  In “My Life as a Dog,” it is the protagonist, Ingemar, who self-regulates his emotions with a touching, humbling relativism.

In both films, beautiful scenes of quotidian grace – singing in the church basement, laughing over dinner – are placed alongside moments of betrayal and abandonment.  In both, this juxtaposition is sharp, but hints at the ultimate triumph of the former over the latter.

For a marathon: “Junebug” and “Young Adult” traverse fairly parallel narrative territory, but do so with different preoccupations.   Faith, “Junebug”‘s source of hope, is replaced in “Young Adult” by the potential promise that can accompany facing the truth about how one has been living one’s life.

“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and “My Life as a Dog” are very clearly products of the same hand. See how the earlier film’s particular flat affect and light-scape are sustained in the move from Sweden to the Midwest.

(Creative Commons licensed original images courtesy of “sivanelle” and “Anders Osterberg” at Flickr)

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