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Published June 16th, 2005 | by Michelle Thomas

Bombon El Perro Review

Classification: 15 Director: Carlos Sorin Rating: 3/5

52-year-old Patagonian Juan Villegas (Villegas) is on his uppers. An unemployed mechanic, living with his unhappily married daughter, he tries to make ends meet by selling hand-made knives. The knives, though beautiful, are too expensive for the blue-collar workers Juan targets, but though unhappy Juan refuses to be bitter. He has lost his way, but is determined to find it again, and drives around the countryside with his little van and his knives, hoping for a break.

One day, as Juan is driving along, he sees a young woman standing next to broken down Mercedes. He offers to tow the car to her house where he can fix it. The woman and her widowed mother are delighted and, in lieu of a fee, present Juan with a most unusual present: a pedigree Dogo Argentino, a noble white beast named Bombon. Bombon comes from a long line of champions, and catches the eye of all who see him. Soon Juan’s luck starts to change – he is offered work as a security guard, and given the number of a dog trainer who can turn Bombon into a professional show dog.

The trainer, Walter (Donado), is exuberant, large of body and of spirit. He is thrilled to see Bombon and immediately sweeps Juan into a training programme. He takes man and dog to a local show where, to his delight, they win the breed class and are finalists in Best In Show. Walter immediately arranges for Bombon to perform stud services, hoping to cash in. Poor Bombon, a virgin, has no idea what he’s supposed to do and simply lies down when presented with his bride-to-be. Walter is less than pleased, because the main value of the dog lies in his siring a new string of champion puppies. He offers to take Bombon and give him some experience.

Juan is still reeling from all the excitement, and he accepts Walter’s decision as he accepts everything that life chucks at him – graciously, with a small, sad smile. But he misses his dog – life isn’t the same without Bombon sitting next to him. He goes to visit and is horrified to discover that Bombon has escaped. No one has seen him, and no one knows where he is. Can Juan find him where others have failed?

Bombon El Perro is directed by Carlos Sorrin, who also directed the peculiar ‘Eversmile New Jersey’. Starring Daniel Day Lewis as a travelling dentist, speeding through Patagonia on his motorbike, the film was mostly remarkable for its evocation of the harsh Patagonian landscape. Bombon also features the landscape and to far better effect. Using real people in the lead roles, as opposed to actors, the film has an almost documentary feel, and though it is the story of a man and his dog it avoids the sentimentality that plagues a lot of shaggy dog stories. Juan is given a new lease of life, but he is not redeemed, because he’s a pretty nice guy to start with. The film is also startlingly honest about dog behaviour and does not anthropomorphise Bombon. He pisses in someone’s office, bites when under pressure and generally behaves like a real dog.

The film is light and deft and charming and the performances for the most part are real and heartfelt – Villegas especially carries a world of experience in his face, and you just want to hug him – but I did find myself getting restless, especially when we are treated to yet another scene of Juan driving, with or without Bombon. Its also a pity that its been given a 15 certificate, as it would seem to have a broad appeal to older children, who will not be able to see it due to some language issues.

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