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Dog Who Wouldn't Be Quiet, The
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by Jay Seaver

"There are some things you really, really can't predict."
4 stars

SCREENED VIA INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2021: "The Dog Who Wouldn't Be Quiet" has maybe the strangest mid-film detour I can recall, surprising me as I watched it although I'll bet that two-weeks-ago me put this film on the schedule because the description hinted at it. Even before that, it's a movie that's as amiably eccentric as its title, well worth a look before it finds the most peculiar way it can to tell what could be a fairly conventional story.

The dog, Rita, doesn't seem particularly difficult as the audience meets her, but that's because her person, Sebastian (Daniel Katz) is home; apparently she whines non-stop when he's at work, to the point where the neighbors gather to complain. He tries taking her to work, and though Rita is well-behaved, it's apparently one of those offices afraid that anything out of the ordinary will be a slippery slope to chaos. So he's soon taking a job on a farm, with plenty of room for Rita to run. But that doesn't last, sending Sebas on other stops, until he sees a woman (Julieta Zylberberg) at his mother's wedding, also dancing by herself on the other side of the floor. They connect, and then…

Well, you've got to see what happens next to maybe believe it, but up until then, it's a well-above average guy-looking-for-his-place sort of movie. A big part of why it works so well is that star Daniel Katz plays Sebas remarkably straight-down-the-middle, even in the early scenes where he's sort of playing a straight man against the petty folks who have a problem with his dog. There's something a bit introverted and isolated about him, even when he's happy, but seldom with an abrasive sense of superiority. It's a performance built out of how he carries himself rather than what he does or says (and he doesn't really say a lot), and is especially complemented by Julieta Zylberberg and Valeria Lois, the former often a female reflection while Lois is the sort of confident, well-integrated-into-her-space mother that makes someone like Sebas seem a bit more uncertain.

As generally likable as Sebastian is, filmmaker Ana Katz recognizes that seeing him quietly be somewhat dissatisfied and move on could wear on an audience if drawn out too long, so not only does she keep the film itself short (a tight 73 minutes), but she makes sure that no individual segment ever wears out its welcome, telling a little vignette and then jumping on to the next stop, giving them just enough time to have meaning but to also let them be transitory. The crisp black-and-white photography proves flexible enough to reflect her main character's moods - almost always feeling a little gray and overcast, not at home among the office's harsh fluorescents, finding some quiet warmth in agriculture. There are a few animated segments which feel like how Sebas would process major shifts in addition to probably covering things this small picture doesn't have an effects budget for - though the production gets impressively creative when things take a weird twist in the last act.

Some may check out at the last act twist that literally comes out of nowhere, but I must admit to being impressed at just how thoroughly the filmmakers embrace that randomness as a theme. Sebastian might have been on the road to a predictable life had his neighbors not had a problem with his dog, but that sends him in a new direction, as does everything from what happens at the farm to meeting a girl to just helping give a stalled truck a push. But chance is not entirely something that happens to individuals; sometimes it's massive and completely unpredictable, a world-changing event that is absolutely an unfair thing for a screenwriter to drop into a script, but those things happen, arguably with increasing frequency, and they're not always timed to be what starts a story.

Those seeing this movie at a virtual film festival in 2021 don't need to be reminded of that, of course, although I'm curious about just when Ana Katz and her collaborators came up with this idea and shot it, just in terms of whether it's reflecting the world or the world is validating its thesis. Either way, there's insight to its oddity, and even the events before the big one are a fascinating way to treat chance as a real part of our lives beyond just chalking things up to fate or finding them cute and quirky.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=34013&reviewer=371
originally posted: 05/10/21 01:56:39
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2021 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2021 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival Boston 2021 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2021 series, click here.

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