Review: Black Dog

Written, directed by and starring Nicholas Adamson, an investigative documentary about a nomad who may or may not be mad, in several different ways.

One of the qualities that becomes clear fast is just how classically British Black Dog’s sense of humour is. A typical mix of sarcastic, backhanded and derogatory mixed with self-deprecation. Nicholas Adamson’s comedic timing is well done and the tone is consistent throughout. Its conversation about mental health is an interesting one, partially because it goes down the avenue of exploring how you can’t force someone to open up, they have to reach that point by themselves. As well as how people are often stuck in the same perspective which can give a limited understanding of another person and their choices, especially if they’re not willing to take the time to find out more. It does occasionally play into the comedy and mockumentary style a little too much, making it difficult to tell what it wants you to take seriously.

The overall style is very natural and everyday, making the setup easy to invest in. There’s some extremely well chosen shots early on but as time goes on, it does start to feel slightly disconnected. It’s also a little too long, coming in at 32-minutes, it’s a fair bit lengthier than your average comedy short and it doesn’t have the energy to sustain itself for that long unfortunately. At a certain point it starts to feel like its repeating itself, struggling to move forward. It’s something that also means it can’t quite make its point about mental health as effectively, it’s in need of some sharper edits to push ahead more strongly.

While there are some flaws behind the camera, Nicholas Adamson’s performance is entirely solid. As well as the comedy side, there is a sympathetic quality to the subject, on top of a self-protective sharp edge which rears its head when he feels threatened. He’s stand-offish yet there’s almost a childlike quality to him, which is interesting when matched with a clear intelligence. Making for a character who’s easy to watch.

Black Dog has a great concept to take a fresh look at mental health and has a great sense of humour. It does however have an indulgent run time and it struggles to maintain itself right to the finish line. The direction shows potential for more, especially given the film’s minimal style, and there’s a good use of locations which help add a lot of quality to the visual.  

Verdict: ✯✯½ | 5/10

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