Dog Days (2023) grabs you by the throat and leads you through a week in the life of its central character, never letting go over its tight running time.
The grit and grime of the streets
The story brings you into the life of Zoso (Conor McCarron) who is living rough and it is clear that his life has been on a downward spiral for a while. However, whilst we see the muck around us, we also feel an energy and warmth emanating from the character. The interactions with his friends, and references to his daughter help to develop the audience’s understanding of a caring side. A stolen guitar and a chance encounter with a music teacher spark the catalyst for what becomes a film of redemption and the possibility of a rebirth for Zoso.
It is all about the cast
McCarron really shines in the lead as Zoso, his strength, determination and his vulnerability really shine out and mark Conor as a potential star of the future. We see him in nearly every frame of the movie and the film squarely rests on his capable shoulders. His job is made easy by some stunning support from an extremely talented cast, most notable is Lois Chimimba as the music teacher who recognises the talent of Zoso and sets him on his path.
Behind the scenes
The talent of the fresh cast would come to nothing if it weren’t for the talent leading the movie behind the scenes. At the centre of that is James Price working as both writer and director, stepping away from the world of short film onto a piece of work which is much more substantial. The writing is both natural and authentic (at least to the ears of a southerner) allowing the central character to develop and grow. Peripheral characters are given their moments to shine despite the taut running time and they all feel authentic.
Setting the scene
The city of Dundee is used beautifully throughout the film, the contrasts in the city used to highlight the moments in the life of Zoso. Decay in the buildings, with paint peeling off the walls and exposed lightbulbs contrast with sleek modern buildings to show where Zoso is, not just in regard to position but also where he is on his journey. Lighting is also well used to show the mood of the character, especially in scenes near the end where the redemption is under threat.
This movie is a refreshing blast, mixing drama and a wry sense of humour. It develops its main character well and keeps you fixated to the screen as you dip into the life of Zoso. This might not be the flame that lights up the careers of those involved but you certainly hope that it is the spark and that those involved get the exposure which is well deserved.