Dog Days (2014) – By Philip Smolen

Brothers Stephen (Joran Backes) and Isaac (Clayton Backes) are making the best out of a hot summer day. They laze about on their family’s farm, wandering around, doing basically nothing until they notice that their dog Lily is missing. Thinking she may have been injured by a bear, the brothers gather up weapons (a bow and arrow and an axe) and go looking for the pooch. Eventually they do find her and they see that indeed, she’s been injured. Stephen goes back for the family tractor while Isaac watches over their beloved pet. But as Isaac waits, he begins to hear all sorts of strange noises. The youth starts to get scared and hopes that his brother gets back soon, before he has to face Lily’s mysterious assailant alone.

“Dog Days” is a 20 minute short film from writer/director Nathan Deming. It’s a slice of rural Americana that drags two boys away from their idyllic existence and thrusts them into something they are totally unprepared for – adulthood. The film is leisurely paced and features very little dialogue.

Deming juxtaposes the boys’ calm laid-back life with the seriousness of the circumstances they now face. Unprepared for what they find, they can’t call on their parents (who are out of town) to bail them out and must now tackle this tough situation all by themselves. The decisions they make reflect their inexperience in this new world and these spasmodic stabs at growing up have a price. Each one uses up a good deal of time, which decreases Lily’s chance of surviving.

The film is gorgeously photographed and Deming’s carefully framed shots carry a multitude of emotions with them. The film’s dialogue (largely improvised by Joran and Clayton Backes) is minimal and properly reflects the boys’ inability to cope in their new world.

“Dog Days” is a beautiful film that touches on a very nostalgic topic – what point in life were we called on to be adults for the first time. Don’t be fooled by the film’s relaxed pace. While on the surface it seems that nothing is happening, underneath there is an emotional tidal wave that tears the lives of these two teenagers apart.

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