This smart, surprising, wildly compelling film is full of twists with subversive commentary; “Good Boy” will make you sit up and take notice.
Viljar Boe’s Good Boy received its world premiere at Beyond Fest, and I was fortunate enough to receive a screener (from Blue Finch Films) for this strange Scandinavian film that features more twists than a pug’s tail.
The plot centers around Christian (played by Gard Lokke), a charming yet shy loner who meets commitment-shy student Sigrid (played by Katrine Lovise Opstad Fredriksen) on a dating app.
The couple’s attraction to one another forms organically despite their different personalities. So, when Christian proposes that Sigrid spend the night following their first date, she is keen to oblige.
Good Boy starts out life as an Indie Romantic Comedy; the dialogue is suitably soapy, and the pacing ambles along with the speed of a budding romance.
When Christian confesses to Ingrid that he has a dog named Frank, both she and the audience think nothing more of the matter. Until the morning after she spends the night. Frank (played by Nicolai Narvesen Lied) is not a dog but a grown man in a dog costume.
And this is where writer/ director Viljar Boe pulls the rug out from beneath us.
The film’s atmosphere whiplashes into Kink territory, and this change in tone is also a cleverly subtle ruse.
Boe’s writing ensures that we gradually accept the reality of this strange situation along with Ingrid.
Once our initial shock wears off, we find acceptance in Christian and Frank’s bizarre relationship dynamic. Christian assures Ingrid that his relationship with Frank the ‘dog’ is non-sexual. He fulfills his part in their relationship because Frank has been his friend since childhood, and Franck chooses to live this way.
I empathized with Frank, and I quickly accepted that he must simply enjoy ‘Puppy Play’ as a consenting adult.
This acceptance of such a unique relationship brought me into a headspace like I experienced while watching Lars And The Real Girl; once I got past the strangeness of the situation, I found myself caring for the ‘non-human’ partner, and I felt emotionally invested in their love for each other.
The empathy we feel for Frank the ‘dog’ is eventually weaponized against us as a sequence of increasingly disturbing events befalls the strange threesome.
Good Boy becomes a power play and an exploration of how we groom different people to get what we want or what we expect from them.
The plot centers on themes of coercive control and the power struggles found in relationships, including the domineering traits found exhibited between Narcissists and their submissive partners.
First repulsed by Christian and Frank’s disturbing relationship, Ingrid has second thoughts after speaking with her flatmate Aurora (played by Amalie Willoch Njaastad).
Her flatmate learns that Christian is a multi-millionaire and convinces Ingrid to pursue the relationship despite their concerns regarding Christian’s unsettling behavior.
We are groomed daily; advertising companies groom us into buying their beauty products; our partners groom us with positive reinforcement such as gifts and compliments.
In Good Boy, Ingrid is groomed into entering a possibly unsafe relationship because of the allure of a privileged lifestyle.
Boe takes his time in building the domestic world of Christian, Frank, and Ingrid. We are fed tidbits of dialogue and are given a Voyeur’s perspective of the blossoming threesome.
Part psychological drama and part irreverent comedy, GOOD BOY abruptly morphs into an entirely new beast of Horror/ Thriller just as you are least expecting it.
Boe masterfully manipulates his audience just as the characters onscreen become the victims of manipulative tactics.
Our leash is tugged and pulled until we find ourselves in unknown territory.
There is an undercurrent of social commentary that relates to class; the rich will always reign at the top of society’s Caste system, whilst those lower down in the hierarchy continue to find themselves desperately fighting to achieve the same level of comfort.
Good Boy toys with our own societal expectations and uses these against us, ensuring that most of us will not anticipate just what the hell is coming next.
I recommend going into this film as blindly as possible.
Skip the trailer, and steer clear of critic reviews. The genius of this story lies within its ability to subvert your expectations whilst leading you down a very dark path.
With a running time of only seventy-five minutes, this twisted fairy tale does not outstay its welcome and promises a treat in its shocking conclusion.
A haunting new twist on the man’s best friend trope, Good Boy need not beg for attention; the solid plot, fantastic cast, and unique premise promise enough tricks to keep its audience invested.