Philip John’s Moon Dogs follows a small group of young people as they slowly work their way to Glasgow for their own individual reasons.
The film opens with Michael (Jack Parry Jones) talking to his girlfriend Suzy (Kate Bracken) about their plans for the near future. They have dreams of moving away from Shetland to Glasgow so that they can live and study together. A failed test prevents Michael from going through with the plan but Suzy leaves without them and they have to deal with the realities of a long distance relationship.
As you might expect, Michael starts to get jealous when he sees snippets of her life without him through some very brief Skype calls and decides to head down to Glasgow to basically remind her that he exists. He takes his introverted stepbrother Thor (Christy O’Donnell) with him and the pair have to work out how to get from Shetland to Glasgow with no money between them.
Fortune smiles on them when they meet the mysterious and free spirited Caitlin (Tara Lee) who shows them how to make things happen the way they want them to and tempt them with her seductive ways as they travel.
At its core this film is a coming of age story for both Michael and Thor who have lived very sheltered lives that has made them very naive about how life works so there is plenty for them both to learn. Michael especially is someone to feel sorry for as it’s easy to figure out that Suzy has long since left him behind but he either fails to realise it or refuses to admit it to himself. Either way the whole venture is misguided right from the beginning as there is no way it will end the way he wants it to.
That isn’t the point of the story though. It is the journey that remains the focus rather than the destination. That may sound really cheesy but it’s also entirely accurate. Their travels take them to some really varied and scenic places that keep everything interesting as the characters have experiences that cause them to grow and change as things progress. In many ways it’s a tour of Scotland that shows the history as well as the darker side of life here.
As mentioned above Michael is someone to be pitied throughout the story but he definitely grows and changes as a result of his experiences. He isn’t the same person that set out on the ill advised journey to Glasgow by the end of the film. There’s still a sense of naivety about him but also a suggestion that he is starting to realise how things work. His reaction to certain situations are often hilarious and performed well by Jack Parry Jones.
Thor goes through a similar change. He has a clear objective at the beginning but is changed by what he experiences. In general he is far less reluctant than Michael is and the two of them have a very realistic and strained relationship that really feels like they are two partially related people essentially stuck together through familial bonds. As you might expect from siblings they bicker and get on each other’s nerves throughout while finding ways to compete over various things. Their relationship keeps everything grounded and creates plenty of opportunity for comedy. Christy O’Donnell’s performance is always engaging and he has good chemistry with the other actors.
Caitlin is a very bizarre character who both worked and didn’t work for me. On one hand there would have been no story without her but very little about her actions makes any sense based on how people act. She approaches everything with an eerily detached attitude where she doesn’t seem to care about anything. It does make her very unpredictable and Tara Lee delivers an excellent performance but the character rarely felt real to me. Maybe that was the point to add to the bizarre nature of the journey but I would have liked a bit more depth to her. She’s one of those characters who is apparently good at everything without any reason for that to be the case.
A very enjoyable story that takes three characters on an entertaining journey that comes across as very varied. The characters are really well drawn with hilarious reactions to the increasingly insane situations they find themselves in. The Caitlin character doesn’t always work for me but she is well handled for the most part and the tour of different aspects of Scottish life is really compelling.
- the excellent characterisation
- a well told story
- hilarious situations
- the Caitlin character not always working