Starring: Lee Re, Lee Ji-won, Kim Hye-ja
Director: Kim Sung-ho
Running Time: 109 mins
How To Steal A Dog is a South Korean film about a young girl, living in a van with her homeless mother and brother, who hatches a plan to kidnap a dog from a wealthy old woman, and then use the reward money to buy a house for her family.
This film may look like a simple kids’ film on the outside, but it’s far, far deeper on the inside. While it’s an undoubtedy sweet and enjoyable family comedy at times, it’s most impressive simply because of how it tackles some fairly heavy issues so frankly throughout, and always manages to do so with genuine and powerful emotion, eventually turning this into so much more, and a truly moving watch from start to finish.
But let’s start off with the simpler side of things, and the fact that this is still a lovely film that all the family can watch. It’s full of powerful drama throughout, but it’s nothing so heavy that young kids can’t handle it, and the fact that the film’s main characters are all young children means that it’s all the more easy for younger viewers to relate to the story and enjoy it.
There is, after all, a story about how to steal a dog in this movie. While the situation surrounding the young girl’s determination to do so is undoubtedly the main focus, there’s still a whole heap of delightful sequences in which we see the kids hatching outlandish plans to capture a rich woman’s pet dog, and although it may seem a little bad, especially for any dog lovers watching, the innocent and good nature of the kids’ intentions makes it perfectly fine to sit back and enjoy their scheme.
So, this is still definitely a family film, and a really entertaining one at that, with pleasant childhood fun and adventure at the core of the lighter side of the story, and a well-directed, light-hearted atmosphere from Kim Sung-ho in tandem with a wonderful performance from young Lee Re making it a film that will make viewers of all ages smile.
However, that’s not why I was so impressed with How To Steal A Dog. It’s a fun family film, but the fact that it manages to introduce a range of genuinely riveting, emotionally powerful and fairly frank social issues into the middle of that story was amazing to see.
Our main character is a young girl who lives in an old pizza van with her mother and brother, so homelessness is naturally a key theme of the story. Not only does the film look at the simple hardships of not having a home, but it also delves into the social consequences for a young girl who feels embarrassed by her situation, the impact that the lifestyle can have on a family’s internal bonds, while also going further to look at issues like the struggles of being a single parent.
Throughout, the film manages to tackle all of these problems head on, never hesitating to take the film’s emotional core to some fairly dark and difficult places, but it’s that that makes the film all the more impressive. Its darker emotion never dampens the childhood wonder of the lighter side of the story, and the young girl’s determination to achieve her goal is made all the more enjoyable by the fact that her intentions are so good, however there are times when the film really manages to hit home with some properly moving drama, something that you really don’t expect given such a light-hearted atmosphere beforehand.
Overall, I absolutely loved How To Steal A Dog. On the one hand, it’s an endlessly enjoyable and delightful family movie, but on the other, it manages to provide riveting drama and genuinely powerful emotion throughout in a way that normally wouldn’t fit at all well with the genre, but instead makes for a thoroughly memorable and moving watch, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.1.