I’ve been explaining to my three-year-old daughter that the bug we’re all trying to stay away from isn’t a massive insect stalking the streets of south London and it’s got me marvelling at the myriad ways children make sense of their lives – how they understand the adult world, and how rarely these dynamics are conveyed with convincing insight and perspective in the cinema. This line of thought led me to a rewatch of Lasse Hallström’s debut feature, a story set in the 1950s about a rambunctious, curious boy who’s sent to spend the summer with his rural relatives while his mother recuperates from a serious illness.

Bobbing along somewhere between European independent cinema and the more familiar melodies of commercial filmmaking (where the director went on to plough his furrow), My Life as a Dog manages not to overplay the quirks that characterise its small-town setting. Instead, the director walks a fine emotional line, never forgetting that the long summers between childhood and adolescence are often a beautiful torment, full of wonder but always tempered by disillusion.

All this is embodied by a superb Anton Glanzelius as the young Ingemar, given to fits of berserk behaviour and rumination on news stories about people who have died in difficult or unusual circumstances. There should be a place reserved for him in the pantheon of singular child performances; somewhere next to Jean-Pierre Léaud (Les Quatre Cents Coups) and Ana Torrent (The Spirit of the Beehive, Cría Cuervos).

Will Massa
Curator of Contemporary Fiction Film