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Dog

Written by Jeff Sparks

65/100

Dog is the second short film in the unique career of Andrea Arnold. With this film, Arnold uses a day in the life of a teen girl in England to take a look at the pressures of society that less fortunate neighborhoods are smothered by. The opening shot shows a bird soaring through a sunset. It appears beautiful until it flies downward, revealing cramped apartment buildings surrounded by deciduous trees. Inside one of these buildings, we see a teen occupant named Leah reluctantly steal from her mother’s purse. When her mother enters the room she immediately starts criticizing her bright-colored jacket and short skirt, calling her a whore. Leah runs out of the apartment onto the balcony where a neighboring woman hangs her clothes up, paying no attention to the woman screaming at her daughter. This is just another day in the life of the people of this town. 

Arnold utilizes a wide lens on the camera to capture the girl walking on the side of the road, revealing endless blocks of similar apartments around her. This type of behavior is not only endless on this street, but in the world. Further down the road, she passes a stray dog gnawing away at something. The dog may have once been white, but now appears brown, covered in mud and dirt. The animal is struggling to survive like everyone else in the area. In every scene we see Leah walking through the mud that has stained the dog, the same way she trudges through the muddy society she inhabits. 

After meeting up with her boyfriend, John, the two of them score a joint at a seedy apartment and head to a remote location to smoke. Shortly after lighting up the joint, John orders Leah to lie down and take her jacket off, demanding sex. The dog interrupts, innocently chewing up the joints that were laid on the ground. John beats the dog, taking its life. This particular scene is Arnold’s example of the dog-eat-dog world we live in. The desperate animal innocently eats an equally desperate man’s only means of escape and is killed in return for it. After witnessing her enraged boyfriend kill the dog, Leah calls him out for it and abandons him. Passing through a field, a balloon as bright as her jacket blows across the ground. She is the only bright spot in this area filled with darkness. 
Returning home to her apartment she is immediately thrown to the ground and beaten by her mother. Pushing her off, Leah stands up and begins barking at her assailant. The dog and the girl are one and the same. Two beings grappling against the world around them that is always trying to beat them down. The final shot of the short is of a swarm of birds flying through the leave-ridden trees below, telling us everything started this way and it will end this way. There will always be girls like Leah.

Dog Short Film

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