A very 18-rated film, and a very human one, here’s our review of Dogs Don’t Wear Pants.

There has been a considerable rise in movies that cover BDSM and extreme sexual preferences. If we look beyond the wildly misleading and troubling mainstream movie Fifty Shades Of Grey to the indie films and classics such as Secretary and The Duke of Burgundy, then there is a whole history of leather and rope. Coming from Finland, this brilliant, subversive film from J-P Valkeapää is a must watch exploration by the exciting yet murky world of BDSM.

Dogs Don’t Wear Pants, named after a jibe dominatrix Mona snaps at customer Juha, centres around one of this year’s most complex but impeccable friendships. The film revolves around Juha who tragically loses his wife when she drowns on holiday. 10 years later, Juha has become emotionally stunted, much to the ire of his rebellious daughter Ella. Whilst getting Ella’s tongue pierced, Juha accidentally stumbles upon Mona and finds a whole new world which could save him.

Unsurprisingly, Valkeapää crafts a boundary-pushing film that looks at pain and anguish in harmony with sex and friendship. A combination of body horror, including graphic scenes of wounds (a thumb close-up is particularly squeamish) and bloody torture, and skin-tight fetish wear, the movie navigates this realm with a slick style. Visually compelling, from the implements to Mona’s outfits, this moves like a thriller in a criminal underbelly. It is an unflinching film that in which isolation and injury become palpably viewing. And yet…

It has a large beating heart. The friendship, though bizarre and troubled, rife with strangulation and stalking, is about these two souls connecting on whatever rope they have tied together. The movie looks at the BDSM world with an intimate and non-judgemental eye where the people at the centre are shaping and evolving one another in more ways than one.

This unusual and brutal production is helped by some astonishing film acting. Pekka Strang as Juha is both the quietly and emotional disposed man distant from his life who finds himself freer in replications of his own trauma. Strang’s skill is to bring the emotions forward into Juha who has spent so long outside of himself that this strange new accidental activity feels like the right bedfellow for him.

Krista Kosonen, who has appeared in Blade Runner 2049, is a stoic companion for Strang’s Juha. Brooding beyond a mysterious character to a person who actual cares for those she whips and asphyxiates, Kosonen is incredible. In quiet, out of the dungeon moments, Kosonen fleshes out Mona so that she too has yearnings and cravings.

There’s an incredible sound design too, right down to the crackling of the PVC suits or the tear into skin. Dogs Don’t Wear Pants culminates in one of the most hopeful and brilliant climatic shots this year. It’s absolutely unusual, distinct, special, and, most importantly, human.

Dogs Don’t Wear Pants is now available on video on demand services, as its cinema release plans were curtailed in current circumstances.


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