Fresh faces on a conventional road trip
There was a Welshman, a Scotsman and an Irishman – OK, so it was an Irishwoman, but you get the picture. They all went on a road trip from Shetland to Glasgow, each for their own reasons, and sometimes it included a boat as well.
Which is more or less the premise of Moon Dogs, the first feature film from Welsh director Philip John.
Why Glasgow? Michael (Jack Parry Jones) desperately misses his girlfriend, who’s just started university there, and wants to see her. He’s convinced he’s losing her because he’s still stuck in Shetland. His step brother, Thor (Christy O’Donnel), has decided to go to the city to track down somebody from his past. And Caitlin (Tara Lee), who they meet on the way, has musical ambitions that she can’t fulfil on the Scottish islands, so Glasgow is as good a place as any.
It would be easy to make a case for a fourth character. Music. It’s a constant throughout the film. Thor’s style isn’t especially conventional and completely bombs at an open mic session at their local pub. Mine host Davey (Tam Dean Burn), who seems to have a finger in just about every single local pie, allows him a few bars and that’s his lot. So much for all that noisy practice in his bedroom. He allows step brother Michael to talk him into being the band for a wedding – where they’re saved from disaster by Caitlin’s singing talents. She’s the driving force of the road trip, being more worldly wise than the two lads and manipulating them to her heart’s content. Their musical odyssey culminates with success in Glasgow – except that, for once, they don’t play to her rules.
The poster points to something gritty, almost in the style of Irvine Welsh, so the softer tone comes as a surprise. It’s a conventional road movie, but with two saving graces. Firstly, the humour, from Thor’s consistently and brilliantly bad timing, through an especially disastrous Skype call to an ill-fated game of Fuzzy Duck. It leaves you wanting more but this isn’t a film aiming to be a comedy. It’s much more of a coming of age trip for the step brothers, one that changes their relationships with each other and their parents as well. And the second saving grace is the trio of young leads, who all give terrific performances. It helps that they’re new faces, but more importantly they’re fresh and convincing and carry the film along with energy.
Ultimately, Moon Dogs is less than spectacular and its ending is depressingly flat compared to the rest of the film. But it’s impossible not to be captivated by the young cast and I defy you not to laugh at the best comedy moments. Especially that Skype call …..
Moon Dogs is released on Friday, 1st September.