Sun Dogs

posted 22 May 2018, 12:36 by Paul Woodward

Genre: Drama

Stars: Michael Angarano / Melissa Benoist / Allison Janney / Ed O’Neill / Xzibit

Director: Jennifer Morrison

Certificate: 12

Run Time: 1hr 34mins

Year: 2017

I Love films like this! It’s films like this that make me a cinephile, Great acting, intriguing story, strong direction and an emotional journey with characters you care about! Sun Dogs is the feature length film debut from Jennifer Morrison (you may know her from TV show Once Upon A Time) and she does a great job, utilising a lot of effects and styles to give her film a unique touch and emphasis certain aspects of the main characters nature. She even pops up in a small onscreen role.

The film follows Ned Chipley who is obsessed with 9/11 and his desire to enlist in the marine corp. He is a strange but an extremely likeable character as he is really innocent, naive and just really wants to help people and save lives. We don’t find out until towards the end of the film that Ned suffered brain damage as a baby when been born, whilst the story makes it obvious that Ned has a mental condition, it’s never mentioned openly or elaborated on until the story needs it to be stated. Instead Ned’s persona is focused upon as opposed to the condition that makes him tick the way he does, which makes for a much more human film which isn’t taking cheap shots to elicit sympathy or drive the story.

The film hits it stride once a recruitment officer in an attempt to give Ned a purpose and refrain from keep applying for the marine corps encourages him to become a ‘Sun Dog’ – a job he makes up. An unofficial agent keeping an eye on the home front, something Ned takes seriously which leads to him investigating people he suspects to be terrorists. Along the way he develops a friendship with Tally a hustler who believes he really is a ‘Sun Dog’ and helps him along on his mission oblivious to his mental condition. There are some heavy and downbeat aspects to this films story but it is a really positive film and isn’t depressing and has a truly memorable and fitting ending.

Ned is so easy to like, his need to help gives him purpose but also makes him admirable. He’s quirky and unusual and this film highlights that been different doesn’t mean you’re less human or inclined to be a ‘bad’ person because you don’t fit into humanities mainstream mindset.

The relationship between Ned and Tally is one of the things I love about the film. It’s innocent and caring and Tally seems so oblivious to his condition because she is so desperate to see the good in someone, which isn’t hard to do with Ned, especially amongst the people she’s associated with herself. With a tragic backstory which actually leads to Ned’s most heroic deed – she sees Ned and his persona as a ray of hope in her bleak life. Ned lives with mom and dad and is isolated from society – something which is downplayed but is obvious in his lifestyle so his relationship with Tally is heart-warming as he develops a very innocent and caring connection with her.

Michael Angarano brings Ned to life perfectly, all his quirks, innocence and unusualness you’d believe he IS Ned! Allison Janney and Ed O’Neill are also excellent as his parents, Janney has to be one of the best character actresses out there.

I can’t gush about Melissa Benoist enough, she is excellent as Tally, someone looking for a better life and seeing the best in Ned, revels in how he makes her feel, important, needed and cared for. Benoist brings Tally’s fragility to the front especially in scenes where she leans on Ned’s friendship and that tragic revelation she confides in him. I really hope this is the start of big things for Benoist, I like her in her role as TV’s Super Girl, but this role proves her acting is good enough to lead her to doing juicier dramatic roles.

Like I’ve already mentioned the film has a great and fitting ending, which really sticks in the memory. My only disappointment was how Tally’s and Ned’s relationship goes. Inevitably she discovers he has a mental condition and he’s not really a soldier and reacts really badly believing he was lying to her. That’s not my problem, that’s how I saw the story progressing. It’s just that when Tally apologises, as her reaction was excessive, not that Ned really fully understood the meaning behind her outburst, it’s done via a postcard. I would have liked their consolation to have been visual – sadly I think this would have given the film too many endings. But there is a sense of Tally’s and Ned’s friendship been unresolved onscreen. Seeing her come to terms with Ned’s disability and it not bothering her would have been a nice touch. I just have to imagine that…lazy script writers! I of course jest, the writers should be very happy with this great human drama.

Excellent film, I can’t recommend this film highly enough for genuine hardcore film fans. Easily one of the best films I’ve seen this year.

9/10

Review By Woody

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