It’s rare that a film touches gracefully on subjects as sensitive and varied as OCD, addiction, and bipolar disorder. As humans we can barely discuss these things, let alone look at them up on screen. With the intricacy of a finely embroidered tapestry, BEWARE OF DOG takes each delicate thread of these stories and ties and knots them into something beautiful.
BEWARE OF DOG simultaneously follows the story of Marina (Marina Vasileva), a student in Moscow coping with intense and worsening obsessive compulsive disorder, Mike (Buddy Duress) a New Yorker fighting drug addiction and obsession, and Paula (Paula Knupling), Marina’s cousin in Berlin, as she keeps her own mental health struggles a dark secret. Marina and Paula communicate via text, sharing the struggles of their lives in their respective big cities, their relationships, their mental and emotional wellbeing. Meanwhile, Mike loves and loses a girl who was never really his, and falls into a dramatic spiral with no sign of a way out. Marina’s obsessive-compulsive disorder is overtaking her – impacting every second of every day of her life. Paula’s mental state is a rollercoaster, and the new beautiful girl she’s dating can’t understand why Paula is so unpredictable and manic. The delicate balance of all of their lives is thrown, but when Marina makes a risky move, maybe the ripples of her action will impact more lives than just her own.
Vasileva, Duress, and Knupling all give beautiful performances. It isn’t easy to make something as ugly as addiction or failing mental health so stunning, but all three take it in stride. Beauty coincides with haunting sadness and true gritty ugliness to make a magical picture of reality. Vasileva’s vulnerability is jaw-dropping – she’s almost so bare and brave in her truth that you can’t look at her. Her portrayal of nervous tics and obsessive habits was particularly difficult for me to watch, as I myself have struggled with aspects of this disease. I can’t think of another performance that has truly captured the uncomfortable, “I don’t want to but I have to” neurotic tendencies of someone with OCD. Bravo, a thousand times, to Vasileva for bringing to light something few, if any, ever have. Duress provides equal parts frustration and a fresh perspective on drug use and relationship obsession. Knupling’s manic pixie dream girl carries shades of Girl, Interrupted meets V for Vendetta, with a splash of Black Swan. Incredibly raw performances match beautifully with the incredibly real subject matter.
Intimate shots mixed with in-camera and practical tricks set the perfect pace for BEWARE OF DOG. Long documentary-style takes flow flawlessly with quick insert shots and rapid cuts to put you in the headspace of our leads. The opposing spaces of Moscow, Berlin, and New York City are a playground for our stories.
Pulling off an interwoven storyline is difficult, and some might even say impossible, but BEWARE OF DOG manages it nearly flawlessly. Stunningly relevant, heartbreaking, and hopeful, the ultimate message of BEWARE OF DOG is love yourself and live your truth.
|Beware of Dog|
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