Mad Dog Labine: A film that delicately blends documentary and drama
By Chase Hutchinson
I had the opportunity to attend and see a brilliant film at 2019's Tacoma Film Festival. It was unique in that it successfully blended documentary with drama. Above all else, I would recommend seeing it but also want to say I discuss things related to the plot so proceed with caution.
Mad Dog Labine is a heartfelt portrayal of two friends living in a small Canadian town
Having some initial skepticisms about the way it blended genres, I can say that it has really grown on me and won me over with it's sheer heart. It isn't without flaws, but the central relationship feels so natural it's hard not to be moved by it. It begins with the main character of Lindsay being left behind by her father who is going out hunting with her siblings and doesn't want to take her. The film builds a fascinating world by showing how much the community values hunting (there is a scene where weapons are blessed in a church) and how much this betrayal represents. Upon being abandoned, she seeks out her friend Justine who is going around selling chocolate to fund a trip to Guatemala. The visuals of Lindsay riding around, or occasionally dragging, her scooter around town are both sweet and sad at the same time, a melancholy of loneliness as she tries to find some sort of connection.
The two end up killing time by stealing beer cans and using the money to illegally buy lottery tickets. One of these tickets ends up being a winner and the girls after being initially ecstatic must now figure out how to get someone to claim their prize money as they are both underage. Even telling this much information feels like it should be a spoiler, but the story ends up being much more about the feel of the world than the beats of the plot. It is a simple story but the characters combined with the interesting location make it feel alive. Even the small interactions, a song being sung by Justine's parents, conversations with a charming yet vulgar youth out fishing, a game of Werewolf around a campfire with strangers, all feel rich and lived in.
The story feels like a youthful fairytale that is deceptively heartfelt and humorous
The film balances it's tone very adeptly. There are moments of sadness and loneliness punctuated by heartfelt mirth that recalls a younger time of imagination such as when Lindsay shadowboxes on a roof where she is cheered on by Justine who gives her the nickname Mad Dog. The reason this all feels so authentic is that there is nothing really separating the documentary from the fictional story being told as they feel effectively intertwined. This happens when the camera is always mobile and frequently shot in ways that feel like they could be from a documentary. Obviously, you can notice when something is a more structured interview when you hear questions from behind the camera but it never takes one out of the film. Everything flows together and ends up painting a loving portrait of both its characters as well as its world as they try to make the best for themselves within it.
That the film manages to carry this momentum forward and remain enthralling is a testament to the story having a strong vision. It feels like a time capsule of youth and a small town that is fading away faster than anyone can stop it. The performance from Ève-Marie Martin and her desire to defend her town as well as find community in the dark corners is particularly compelling. Even if this effort is futile, she is someone that conveys so much in her desire to save what it unsavable. Both her connections to her town and her friend are important to her, more than anything else. To see her losing these things breaks the heart and left me thoroughly moved. Whether this is because I myself left my own home, I don't know. I do know that this film was a spectacular portrayal of this youthful world and how, like all things, it ends up being left behind.