Black Dog is awaiting a UK release date.
The road trip genre has long allowed directors to bring detailed character-driven stories of revelation, rebirth, enlightenment and healing to the big and small screen. George Jaques’ assured debut feature, Black Dog, takes us from the streets of Brixton to a housing estate in Scotland via the A1M alongside two boys from very different sides of the track.
Sam (Keenan Munn-Francis) is a shy young man who appears to come from a loving home. But Sam also hides an inner torment from all those around him, one he attempts to control through an eating disorder and prescribed antidepressants. Meanwhile, Nathan (Jamie Flatters) is a streetwise foster kid about to leave the care system due to his age. Nathan was separated from his sister when they were taken into care, and now he is determined to find her, with only an old address and phone number that diverts to voicemail. When Nathan rescues Sam from muggers on the streets of Brixton, neither boy initially recognises the other despite having known each other in primary school. But this chance encounter is about to throw both boys together as they embark on a 450-mile journey North.
As they travel up the A1M, and the walls between them crumble, Nathan and Sam discover a shared fragility, uncertainty and pain through the exquisite, powerful, and tender performances of Jamie Flatters and Keenan Mun-Francis. Here, Black Dog beautifully explores the lasting effects of the care system, feelings of social isolation, the pain of grief and the importance of male friendship in healing as one boy navigates a world closing in around him and the other attempts to leave behind his long-held feelings of abandonment and isolation. However, there are times when Black Dog lacks space and time to fully embrace some of the themes raised; for example, a campfire scene reminiscent of My Own Private Idaho leads to Sam and Nathan waking up together in bed with their legs entwined. Yet despite the beauty of these scenes, the themes of male sexuality and bonding tentatively raised never find a dedicated voice. Equally, the final scenes feel underdeveloped in concluding both boys’ journey together.
But, while Black Dog may not fully embrace all of the themes it raises during its all too brisk runtime, it is a powerful and emotional road trip journey that shines through the assured direction of George Jaques, the beautiful cinematography of Hamish Anderson and the gentle yet powerful score of Blair Mowat. But, as the credits roll, it is the stunning performances of Munn-Francis and Flatters that linger in the memory and earn Black Dog its place as a shining British gem in the coming-of-age road trip genre.
Black Dog is a powerful and emotional road trip journey that shines through the assured direction of George Jaques, the beautiful cinematography of Hamish Anderson and the gentle yet powerful score of Blair Mowat. But, as the credits roll, it is the stunning performances of Mun-Francis and Flatters that linger in the memory and earn Black Dog its place as a shining British gem of the coming-of-age road trip genre.