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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Stray Dog - A Film Review

I really liked the 2015 documentary Stray Dog a lot. It was directed by Debra Granik (Winter's Bone; Down to the Bone) about a man named Ronnie, who is a Vietnam veteran and biker. He is dealing with his own brutal memories of the war and talks with fellow vets, opening up about conflicted thoughts on their experiences and life afterwards, as well as traveling with his biker crew to the Vietnam Memorial to pay respect to fallen brothers.

At home in Missouri, he owns and runs an RV park, where he lives with his Mexican wife Alicia. He is learning Spanish to become more bilingual, teaching himself through a computer language program and practicing with her. He is fond of his four little dogs, and it is really sweet to see a burly biker dude shearing his poodles or feeding his daughter's kitten via an eye dropper.

Alicia is adjusting to living in America (she speaks English, but is obviously more open and comfortable in Spanish) and living in a trailer park with Southern poor white folk. She has her twin teenage sons who she is bringing over from Mexico to live with them, and the boys don't speak English and need to learn it from Ronnie in order to work as adults, which does include some funny moments regarding American slang. The film is her story, too, and Granik gives her a lot of screentime to speak about her life as an immigrant and adjusting to a new life.

Alicia worries about Ronnie's mental state, especially when he watches war movies and just goes into his own world, tuning everything else out. She is trying to be supportive of him, but still worries about him having PTSD.

I thought this was a great documentary, and I liked seeing how multi-faceted Ronnie was beyond his initial appearance. He is a biker who is open and caring, loves animals, taught himself Spanish, and is dedicated to improving his mental health as well as the health of fellow vets.

The film can be found on PBS' website.

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