Moon Dogs (2 stars)

Moon Dogs

Heartfelt, well-acted but disappointingly generic road movie from debut director Philip John

Endearing in places, frustrating in others, the cinematic debut of Welsh director Philip John (best known for his extensive work in TV) is a low-budget, Scotland-set road movie with plenty of heart but not much in the way of originality. Drawing all of its strength from its three central performances, the energy of its talented young cast just about propels it forward through its more problematic moments.

Stepbrothers Michael (Jack Parry-Jones) and Thor (Christy O'Donnell) have very little in common aside from a desire to escape their isolated Shetland hometown. An opportunity presents itself when Michael comes to believe his girlfriend in Glasgow is cheating on him, and the pair embark on a road-trip to confront her. Along the way they meet Caitlin (Tara Lee), a free-spirited young woman who has a profound effect on both the men.

The very definition of a manic pixie dream girl, Caitlin strides through the landscape (beautifully shot by Alasdair Walker), her leather jacket and boots at deliberate odds with her natural surroundings, while she sings in a breathy style and spouts life lessons like 'always finish what you start.' It's not long before both brothers are in her thrall.

Despite her seemingly pivotal place in this narrative, however, Caitlin is there purely as an emotional and dramatic bridge between the brothers, helping them find some common ground which will enable their individual journeys of self-discovery. Her own backstory remains sketchy beyond the fact that she is fiercely independent and sexually experienced – something that's both celebrated and frowned upon.

That's a shame, not only because Lee is an arresting, enigmatic actress who does her best with a limited part, but also because the dynamic between Michael and Thor is compelling enough without her influence. Add in an underdeveloped subplot about Thor's Viking heritage and difficult relationship with his father, and this potentially intriguing exploration of the sharp angles of brotherhood is diluted into something altogether more generic.

Selected release from Fri 1 Sep.

Moon Dogs

  • 2 stars
  • 2016
  • 1h 32min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Philip John
  • Cast: Jack Parry Jones, Tara Lee, Christy O’Donnell, Denis Lawson, Shauna Macdonald

Stepbrothers Michael (Parry-Jones) and Thor (O’Donnell) leave their native Shetland to go on a road trip, in which they meet free-spirited Caitlin (Lee). Low-budget Scottish road movie with lots of heart and little originality. Lee is an arresting actress but Caitlin is a generic manic pixie dream girl, and it’s all too…

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