Student Critic Lewis Johnston-Watt reviews short film Dogged (Nicole Steeves, Struan Sutherland, Canada, 2017)
Dressed in a red riding jacket, a young girl smiles brightly as she yearns for the one thing she cannot have: a dog.
A humble wish which has inspired many a family argument, in Dogged this impulse finds new meaning, exploring the nature of desire and obsession through unlikely means. Co-directed by Nicole Steeves and Struan Sutherland, Dogged is a five minute short that seems longer than its actual length, covering the process from want to need with twisted relish. Divided in two it reads like a condensed Brothers Grimm tale, creating a result that is equal parts surprising and humorous, in a film that embraces its story with pride, happily mixing genre and style. Playing with the traditional confines of filmic convention, light is a particularly important marker in Dogged, denoting atmosphere and mood with economic clarity. Further clichés are also employed, including childlike drawings that bookend the piece, coupled with a cheerful piano that never ceases. Despite these references, Dogged does not suffer for a lack of ideas, carefully winking at the horror genre in a mocking display of self-awareness. Tension builds and falls as the story unfolds, and the payoff is as ludicrous as it is dark, straddling the line between parody and reverence without committing to either in full. Whether you laugh or flinch, in Dogged the game is simple and the only wrong move is to feel nothing at all.
Lewis Johnston-Watt is 22 and has just graduated with a degree in French from the University of St Andrews.