My Life as a Dog is a nostalgic slice of the life of a child in welfare-state Sweden in the 1950s. Young Ingemar (Anton Glanzelius) is slightly quiet, slightly troubled, slightly mischievous -- pretty much a typical kid. He has always been close to his mother (Anki Liden, in a very good performance). But now she is dying of TB. So he is sent away to the country to live with his likeable uncle Gunnar (the equally likeable Tomas von Brömssen) in Smaland, amongst a cast of crazy Swedish townspeople and a new bunch of kids.

For some reason, during the 1980s many European directors finally became interested in making technically competent and emotionally involving films -- for the first time. My Life as a Dog is a transitional work in the evolution of continental cinema -- there are still moments of home-movie sloppiness, slow-paced nostalgia, and self-indulgent pseudo-profundity, and enough sex gags to satisfy European audiences. But Lasse Hallström's film also contains insight, humor, intelligence, and warmth, and his direction is graceful and effective.

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