Emotionally Exhausting: Our Review of ‘Chien Blanc’

Emotionally Exhausting: Our Review of ‘Chien Blanc’

I’m writing about a movie about that focuses around the assassination of Martin Luther King and a lost dog that a family brings in. This was never going to be a particularly easy watch. Chien Blanc or White Dog was certainly not what the initial synopsis leads audiences to believe the film is either. The movie focuses on this former police dog. One trying to get a second chance in life. For its whole life, it was meant to engage and scare Martin Luther King supporters.

The movie focuses on Romain Gary (Denis Menochet) and his wife Jean Seberg (Kacey Rohl) as they’re at home one day. They discover this German Sheppard in their front yard and invite the dog in as its raining and cold and not suitable for a dog in this condition. A dog should not be left outside permanently. And certainly not in the conditions where Gary found the dog in his yard.

The film is set in 1968 Los Angeles after the assassination of Martin Luther King. It focuses on the very thin line between being an ally with privilege with the centrepiece of the film being this dog who the police trained to attack Black people. Gary wants to help desensitize and retrain the dog so it can not follow its racist training. So he brings the dog to a trainer, Keys (K.C. Collins) who agrees to try and rehabilitate the dog. Gary’s wife decides to bring media attention to the dog, and the cause. But her intentions are wrong and it shows where her true colours truly lay.

As a dog lover, and general animal lover, a lot of Chien Blanc was difficult to watch. There are moments where I needed to pause the film and just step away and take a breath. But I do think its important to show that no dogs or animals in any case are a lost cause. Everyone deserves a second chance. One of the lines that Gary delivers is along the lines of “we shouldn’t put the dog down we should put down the trainers” and that line speaks volumes. Animals and any growing being learn from their surroundings and will follow their training. So if someone teaches people or animals that something is right while morally or legally is wrong, then they wouldn’t know because that is what they know is right. It really is the argument of nature vs nurture all over again.

Anais Barbbeau-Lavalette directs and co-writes Chien Blanc with Valerie Beaugrand-Champagne. It certainly packs a powerful punch that highlights the difference between being an ally and having privilege. This is exemplified and carried out by the performances from both Denis Menochet and Kacey Rohl. They both deliver stellar performances. But it is their difference of opinion and what they do from their positions of power that speaks volumes. This will force the audience to look back at their own choices and things they’ve done in their own lives. Menochet and Rohl pack the punch in the performances, with an assist from Collins whose also spectacular. The added emotional punch of the subject matter is sure to wreck anyone whose an animal lover. And it will prove to be a tougher watch than first anticipated.

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My earliest movie memory, outside of my home theatre in my basement, was going to the local Video 99 and wanting to rent ET only to be told by the shop owner it was playing down the street in theatres. My love for cinema has been alive for as long as I can honestly remember. I would frequent the cinema minutes down from my house daily. It was a second home. Movies are an escape from the everyday world, a window into the soul, a distant friend. If I’m not watching a movie, I’m probably watching a tv show, if I’m doing neither I’m asleep. Feel free to interact me at @Dubsreviews
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