Good Boy

Good Boy (aka Me, You & Frank) (2022)

Good Boy (aka Me, You & Frank) screens at HÕFF – Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Film Festival 

“If you have a pulse and two legs, then we’re well on our way,” reads the Tinder bio of Sigrid (Katrine Lovise Øpstad Fredriksen) seen near the beginning of Good Boy (aka Me, You & Frank). While this is economic proof that Sigrid possesses that most desirable quality in online dating, a good sense of humour, it is also a signifier that this young, impoverished psychology student is making herself available to the degree where she has practically zero standards. 

Scanning the site for a potential partner, Christian (Gard Løkke) is no doubt drawn to Sigrid’s desperate vulnerability and palpable lack of self-esteem – or perhaps it is to her minimal requirement for someone who is bipedal. After all, Christian is already bound up in a close relationship with a partner of the four-legged variety – except that, although this man’s best friend Frank may eat and drink from a bowl on the floor, be taken for walks on a leash, and bark, yap and whimper like any dog, he is in fact a man (Nicolai Narvesen Lied) in a canine costume which he only ever removes for the occasional shower. 

This is, to say the least, something of a red flag, but as Sigrid starts dating shy, charming, gentlemanly Christian, and perhaps also as she learns that he is a multi-millionaire who can offer her the kind of lifestyle of which she could otherwise only dream, she starts to accept this strange domestic arrangement. As her roommate Aurora (Amalie Willoch Njaastad) observes: “You can live on his inheritance and become a housewife if you marry. Then you won’t have to study. I think it’d suit you.” 

So Sigrid does some basic research with Aurora on the fetish known as puppy play, watching an introductory online video (featuring a cameo from Good Boy’s writer/director/DP/editor Viljar Bøe, alongside Marie Waade Grønning), and decides that, as long as no one is being hurt and everyone is happy, she can accept her wealthy beau’s peculiar peccadillo. Having already slept with Christian on their first date, Sigrid goes back for a second (the offer of “spaghetti and Hitchcock” being Christian’s equivalent of Netflix and chill, only with foreshadowing of high tensions to come). Instead of playing hard to get as Aurora has advised, Sigrid even agrees, shortly after they have first met, to join Christian and the dog for a weekend-long trip to his cabin in the woods – which, for all its inevitable associations with horror, is more like a luxury villa. There, the truth will emerge of what it really means to belong to this ménage à trois, as one controlling character builds a kennel-like coterie more or less willing to follow the lead of their master.

This feature from Bøe (who also made Til Freddy, 2020) starts as a quirky romantic comedy, before shifting into more familiar yet defamiliarised cat-(and-dog-)and-mouse territories – but it is, from start to finish, essentially a dating film with a kink in its tail, as characters negotiate what it is that they really, essentially want from their relationship before settling down together to form a family. As such, it fits into a growing subgenre of films, like Kevin Smith’s Tusk (2014), Carles Torrens’ Pet (2016), Nicholas Pesce’s Piercing (2018), J.-P. Valkeapää’s Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (2019), and Josh Stifter’s Greywood’s Plot (2019), in which characters’ base, bestial desires find their expression in the language of BDSM, with questions about abuse and consent left uncomfortably open. The resulting power games are barking.

strap: Viljar Bøe’s unsettling romantic thriller lets a young woman of low self-esteem find abusive love and family in the barking language of BDSM

© Anton Bitel