Dusty and Me
- Nikki Baughan
- 24 September 2018
Disappointing, dog-themed dramedy following a northern misfit in the 70s
Northern folk and broad strokes combine in Dusty and Me, a slice of regional British cinema from Betsan Morris Evans that squanders its 1970s Yorkshire setting on a run-of-the-mill story of an outsider struggling to find his place – and win over the girl of his dreams – with the help of a friendly greyhound.
Luke Newberry (TV's In the Flesh) is Derek Springfield – known to everyone as Dusty, thanks to his surname – who feels like a misfit in his rural hometown. Destined for Oxford University, he struggles to make local friends until he comes across a straggly greyhound which his brother names Slapper: an early red flag. As he attempts to train the dog, and keep her safe from local thieves, he wins the attention of local chip shop beauty Chrissie (Genevieve Gaunt) and finally gains the respect of his family.
There are immediate thematic parallels with Andrew Haigh's Lean on Pete, in which a lonely American teen finds solace in a racehorse, but there the similarities end. While Haigh's film is nuanced and subtly observed, Dusty and Me is blunt-edged and obvious. That's immediately clear with the contrived production design. Crafted to within an inch of its life, the film's garish patterns and muddy 70s palette provides a visual cacophony that further confuses a tone that runs from knockabout comedy to forced pathos – 'You're my only friend,' Dusty laments to the dog, ad infinitum – and pantomime villainy.
Similarly, the story is well-worn; take away the greyhound, and it's another misfit male finding the courage to stake a claim in his own life and win love. And the characters are one-dimensional, despite the best efforts of a strong cast which includes Ian Hart and Iain Glen. Dusty, for example, seems to be a black sheep purely because he is more intelligent that everyone else; his father is an ale-swilling misogynist who doesn't know how to interact with his sensitive son, his mother is reduced to subservient support. While that may strike a note of 70s authenticity, there's no dramatic depth or shades of grey to give the film substance – or, indeed, appeal.
Selected release from Fri 28 Sep.