Dogs Don’t Wear Pants LFF Review

Dogs Don’t Wear Pants

Director: J P Valkeapää

Starring: Krista Kosonen and Pekka Strang

Our Rating: ★★★★★

Dogs Don’t Wear Pants– What’s it about?

Dogs Don’t Wear Pants is about a widower and a dominatrix.
Juha lives a wonderfully idyllic life with his wife and young daughter, Elli, both of whom he utterly adores. One afternoon, Juha’s wife drowns in the lake behind their house, he dives in after her, but it is too late. He is pulled out of the lake by a fisherman and lies bereft on the little boat, coughing and vomiting the lake water.
Flashforward a number of years, Elli is no longer a little girl and her and her father move around each other like ghosts. Leaving sweet post-it notes in favour of conversation. It is clear there is a chasm between the two of them since the death of their mother/ wife.
Elli asks for a piercing for her 16th Birthday, below the piercing parlour Juha discovers, is a dominatrix’s dungeon. Mona, the dominatrix, fears he is an intruder and attacks him, choking him. In those moments, deprived of oxygen he sees his wife, he sees the lake, he is weightless in the water. However, suddenly it is over and he flees.
He finds himself unable to stay away for long…

Coping Mechanisms

Trading one coping mechanism for another, he hires Mona to strangle him. She belittles him, calls him a dog, all before strapping him to a chair and pulling a bag over his head. Do not be concerned here, she is careful, considered, she is a consummate professional. Juha quickly becomes addicted to the feeling and begins to neglect his life and his daughter, in favour of living in this oxygen-deprived fantasy. He has finally found a way to see his beloved again and will do anything to keep it happening.
As with many things, this all gets worse before it gets better, but it does get better for Juha.

 dogs don't wear pants

The portrayal of loss and grief

The portrayal of grief is beautiful- it is handled in a way that is uncommon. It is not ‘poetic’ he is not a solitary hero, he is deeply flawed. Never having gotten over the tragic event has deeply damaged the relationship between Juha and Elli, he can barely take care of himself, just walking through like in a daze. We see him start to reconnect with life again after a few encounters with Mona. Nevertheless, I did not take this obsession with Mona to be one born from love, rather one born from addiction. Yes there was an attraction two one another and they share a kiss or two, but it is more out of a place of desperation and loneliness than love. Juha became an addict, Mona could provide the relief and he did not care about the damage it may cause him or her. Juha has no regard for his wellbeing and at a particularly poignant moment, we and Mona, realise that he has no desire to live. He is, whether consciously or subconsciously, pushing Monda further and further over the edge.

Heartfelt and funny

Not only is Dogs Don’t Wear Pants heartfelt, but it is funny and not just fill an awkward silence funny. But funny. Mona delivers a great number of lines with a dry and sharp white. As well as the laughs there were moments that made you SQUIRM. More then a few times the man seated next to me winces and gasped. I am not talking unnecessary visceral gore here, Dogs Don’t Wear Pants is too beautiful for that. But these were almost mundane acts that REALLY hurt to watch, i.e removing a fingernail that had gotten infected and a tooth extraction!

Dogs Don’t Wear Pants has everything in perfect measure

After the screening, we were treated to a Q and A with director J P Valkeapää and Krista Kosonen. Krista spoke of the in-depth research and preparation, she, her co-star Pekka and JP did in order to get the BDSM scenes right. She talked of being coached by a professional dominatrix in Finland. It is easy to see that authenticity was very important for everyone involved in Dogs Don’t Wear Pants. Something interesting Krista said was how safe and confident she felt during the BDSM scenes, thanks to JP’s structured storyboards. I thought this was very interesting as often we hear how much leading actors/ actresses are put through to nake their performance feel more ‘authentic’. Knowing the consideration that went into all aspects of the creation of the film just makes me like it even more.
JP half-jokingly described Dogs Don’t Wear Pants as a romantic comedy. And to some extent, I agree. However, not between Juha and Mona, but between Juha and himself and life! There is a scene at the very end where we see a glimmer of the man we saw at the beginning. He is a lot more bruised and battered but, finally living again and it’s beautiful.

Dogs Don’t Wear Pants left me with a feeling of elation

I did not expect to leave the screening feeling so elated and healed. However, that is exactly the response Dogs Don’t Wear Pants illicted in me. It was my final screening at the BFI London Film Festival. It was the perfect end to an incredible festival experience. I laughed, I was absolutely glued to my seat, I loved the characters and the journey we got to go on with them.
Dogs Don’t Wear Pants was a joy to watch, it straps you to your chair and demands you pay attention. By the end, you’ll be begging for more!

Dogs Don’t Wear Pants comes out Spring 2020!

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