For a movie that appears to stop and start as it shifts its focus a few times too many, denying us longer introspection into its most magnetic man-to-man rapport, The Power of the Dog thrives on having actors so submerged in the fiction that they are creating a reality. Their subcutaneous labor translates what’s unsaid into fleeting but telling gestures.
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The Power of the Dog sticks its teeth into you so fast and furtively that you may not feel the sting on your skin until after the credits roll, but the delayed bite of the film’s ending doesn’t stop it from leaving behind a well-earned scar.
The Power of the Dog has attributes that recall her past work but pleasingly seems––if not a new direction––that Campion is drawing upon a fresh skillset to best do this tale justice.
This is an exquisitely crafted film, its unhurried rhythms continually shifting as plangent notes of melancholy, solitude, torment, jealousy and resentment surface. Campion is in full control of her material, digging deep into the turbulent inner life of each of her characters with unerring subtlety.
If The Power Of The Dog isn’t the absolute killer coup that Campionites might have hoped, this is her most thoroughly conceived, consistently involving drama for years: taken all in all, pretty much the full visual, dramatic and, indeed sonic package.
All of this should build, slowly and inexorably, in force and emotion. But for a film that’s actually, at heart, rather tidy and old-fashioned in its triangular gamesmanship, “The Power of the Dog” needed to get to a more bruising catharsis. In its crucial last act, the film becomes too oblique.
While the core narrative is plenty compelling in all its creeping dread and curiosity, The Power of the Dog is not too concerned with being about any one thing. The film’s secrets are revealed while new ones bloom into being. Life tumbles after life in the ecosystem of all of us, seething amid the dust clouds we can’t help but kick up.
The film is often hard to watch, but Campion and her uniformly excellent cast leaven the discomfort with a constant sense of prickling intrigue around what precisely we are watching play out here, and how far the ritual will go.
It’s cinematic poetry, if there ever was one, bourgeoning in meaning the more you linger in its shadow.
It’s a brawny, brooding drama about the wreckage caused by men, beautifully framed in muted neutral tones as the camera circles the ranch-house with a deliberate, stealthy tread.