Betsan Morris Evans directs this heartwarming film about one misfit boy and his dog which is surprisingly entertaining and enjoyable.
Set in Yorkshire in 1977, Dusty & Me follows the story of Derek (Dusty) as he leaves school with low self-esteem and is seen as misfit in his community and by his father. But this all changes when he meets Slapper, a greyhound who seemingly isn’t fit for greyhound racing.
Directed by Betsan Morris Evans, Dusty & Me has a similar feel to the classic British comedy film The Full Monty or Billy Elliott, with its references to class, the importance of family and community spirit. But what makes this film stand out is the way it celebrates Derek being different (i.e potentially the first one in his working class family to go to university) but is never patronising in its approach- it is well grounded and has good intentions.
Another positive about Dusty & Me is the performances by its cast members – in particular Luke Newberry as Derek, who offers an instantly charming and believable performance of an awkward 18 year old trying to find his way in the world. To watch his character blossom and grow, shows an actor who is confident and self-assured about the way in which to portray this quiet and introverted person and it works well. Newberry is matched by the charm and refreshing performance of Genevieve Gaunt as Chrissie, a sweet character for the most part but also has a hint of steel beneath that makes her instantly likeable.
Elsewhere, Ben Blatt as Little Eddie is suitably cocky but with a big heart when it comes to looking out for Derek and is immensely enjoyable to watch, while Iain Glen, Ian Hart and Lesley Sharp make for strong support.
But there are moments in the film which lose its sincerity – particularly involving the exterminator villains who kidnap Slapper to use for their own purposes. The dialogue and the actions of the pair don’t seem to ring true, feeling like a plot filler to add excitement than of real purpose and can make the film feel slightly stilted and awkward like its main character. This is where Rob Isted’s writing falls slightly – by offering a situation like this it loses the warmth and becomes slightly silly and obvious.
Essentially, this is a film about relationships and in this regard the film is particularly heartwarming to see how relationships develop and change – particularly that between Derek and his father Big Eddie, which although slightly predictable towards the end has a great sincerity about it. Every relationship is interwoven with great warmth, adding depth and understanding of the characters as individuals well managing to change the audience’s perceptions of each personality.
Overall, Betsan Morris Evans has created a genuinely heartwarming film that is light hearted entertainment and is enjoyable from start to finish.
By Emma Clarendon
Dusty & Me will be released in select UK cinemas on the 28th September.