Sleeping Dogs Terrance Odette

On the website for this movie, director Terrance Odette invokes De Sica and Kiarostami and Hou in his attempts to describe his "vision.” But the joke’s on Odette: those neo-realists try to establish life as worth living and fighting for. Sleeping Dogs is altogether more bleak and hopeless, and thus, less interesting. The film brings together two disparate souls: blind, diabetic and hospital-bound Mr. Gloss (Brian Stillar) and Thomas Benga (Tony Adah), the caregiver whose negligence allows Mr. Gloss to escape unnoticed. The patient is looking for the ailing dog his brother has had put down; the caregiver is trying to get him back in order to save his job. Did I mention Gloss hates his brother? And that Thomas is avoiding his family in spite of his father’s recent death? Yep, it’s affirmations all around as Mr. Gloss spits out bile about his deceitful brother and the seriously underwritten Thomas does his best to coax him back, while the suburban wasteland of Kitchener, Ontario gives us damned little to want to look at. Had the film any subtler point than "life sucks” it might have made its familial tensions work, but the film isn’t controlled enough to do anything other than send us into a funk or annoy us with ugliness. And Thomas’s obviously antagonistic relationship with his kin is barely established (through his answering machine, no less), making his character an enigma we can never really penetrate. The movie is so vaguely conceived and executed we can hardly ascertain a purpose, except, of course, the familiar refrain that life in Canada is a vale of tears. With so many other films queuing up to make that point, you can easily skip this one. (Kino)