Good Boy

Reviewer: Jonathan Marshall

Writer and Director: Viljar Bøe

A sumptuous steak dinner is prepared and plated. Chunks of meat are then sloppily deposited into a dog bowl, which is set down on the floor. The dog is called but rather than a canine appearing, we instead see a man dressed up as one. This is Frank and he proceeds to devour the food in the manner of the animal he is imitating. It makes for a unique opening and the disquieting tone it establishes is successfully sustained throughout the remainder of the film. Written and directed by Viljar Bøe Good Boy is a pleasingly innovative entwining of romantic thriller and horror.

Sigrid and Christian begin talking via a dating app. When the two meet in person she is beguiled by his handsome good looks, polite charm and endearing shyness. She decides to go back to Christian’s place and is pleasantly surprised by the vast affluence of his home. Christian confesses to not being that great with people. He enjoys his own space and besides, he has his dog to keep him company. After spending the night together, Sigrid awakes with alarm at finding Frank ‘the dog’ at the foot of the bed.

Taking this as a momentous red flag, Sigrid hurriedly makes her excuses and leaves. She is soon forced to confront her knee-jerk reaction as she discusses Christian with her friend. Learning that he is the heir to a multi-million fortune, Sigrid considers Christian’s positive attributes. Who is she to judge what other people do in the privacy of their own homes? Still, she finds the situation strange but resolves to be open minded, give Christian another chance and try to better understand him.

Sigrid warms to Christian when his sensitive nature begins to seep through in conversation. Frank is his best friend and although he doesn’t understand the logic of him ‘being’ a dog, he respects it and accommodates him. Sigrid goes along with it but when Frank suddenly warns her that it is in fact Christian who is insane and she needs to get out of there, things take a far more sinister turn. It’s a welcome twist that catapults the film from slow-burn puppy play to a suspenseful game of cat and mouse as a terrified Sigrid endeavours to escape.

Bøe’s script is well-written and understated. The dialogue feels natural and authentic. We immediately buy into the fact that Christian and Sigrid have just met. All the nerves and apprehension that comes with those initial first encounters shine through in both the dialogue and the chemistry between our two central performers.

Bøe also allows us to see Christian through Sigrid’s eyes. We flit from viewing him as a good person with lots of positives to detecting there is something very off with him to then doubting our judgements. It adds depth to our viewing experience and showcases Bøe’s deftness at examining human behaviours and interactions.

A high level of acting is required to carry such a script and ensure the audience invest into it, given its surreal premise. Gard Løkke perfectly captures Christian and his many layers. His personality shifts are suitably unnerving and in his most cold and controlling moments we fully believe that this man is dangerous. It’s a considered, engaging performance.

Løkke is well complemented by Katrine Lovise Øpstad Fredriksen as Sigrid. Through her subtle facial expressions and mannerisms, we see her transition from excited intrigue upon first meeting Christian to increasing terror and panic. The changing rapport between them is beautifully realistic thanks to the actor’s nuanced portrayal.

Power and privilege, control and abuse, identity and the dangers of dating in our modern world are all explored in this carefully executed, tightly contained thriller. Bøe succeeds in subverting our expectations and gifts us an inventive and unsettling viewing experience that is sure to reside in one’s mind long after the closing credits.

Blue Finch Film Releasing presents Good Boy on digital platforms 11 September.

The Reviews Hub Score:

Inventive and unsettling

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The Reviews Hub Film Team is under the editorship of Maryam Philpott.

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