In the film’s opening scene, Frank Clayton (Jason Durr) jumps out of a window. What transpires are the weeks leading up to this precipitous decision, where we meet a happier Frank, spending his days working at a company that manufacture sex toys with his obnoxious, vulgar boss, Bill (Nick Moran). Upon discovering he may not be very well, Frank sees this as a good opportunity to try and reconnect with his teenage son Sam (Dylan Llewellyn). The odds are stacked against him though as he attempts to right a few wrongs, and impress the mother of his child, and love of his life, Rachel (Orla O’Rourke).
The structure to this feature is well-crafted, as Nye – alongside co-writers Andres Dussan and Lawrence Tallis, present their tale with a distinctive linearity that upholds our attention, as we anticipate the moment we catch up with ourselves, the film’s opening scene, to try and comprehend why Frank reached the point of no return. However, he’s not the easiest character to get along with – and though we grow more fond of Frank as the film progress towards the latter stages, given he’s endearingly pathetic and heavily flawed – investing in his cause and rooting for his contentment is not quite so easy a task. The one character that is easiest to adhere to and to like, is Rachel – and given O’Rourke appears in the film as three separate characters, that’s pretty handy to say the least.
Down Dog manages to remain quite understated throughout though, which is certainly to the film’s benefit. Though the comedy is surrealist in parts, and exaggerated in others (mostly through the misogynistic character of Bill), this remains an intimate study of one man getting all of his affairs in order. The father-son dynamic is well judged too, and brings about the majority of the film’s pathos. There’s a nice, genuine chemistry between the two actors and it’s a sweet and touching depiction at times. That’s indicative of a picture that thrives, far more predominantly, in the drama – and as such compromises the comedic elements. There’s heart to this, for sure, but very few laughs, if at all.