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Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog (2021) movie review

A first scene shows the mother and her two children about to enter a store but stopping to see two signs in the storefront, one reading “Our dogs allowed” and just above another with the caption “No Jews Allowed”.

Roth’s strongest point, but certainly on the nose, uses dogs to talk about the dehumanization of the Jewish people and how the Nazis’ obsession with racial purity spread to animals. As the father tries to sell some of their dogs, a blond German asks him about the breed of animals. Later, once the family is separated and the plot reuniting Caleb and Joshua in the same concentration camp, the notion of animal behavior is used to refer to SS officers.

Shot in Hungary with international distribution, the production feels oddly set up. Its budget seems large enough to secure places and / or settings that convincingly convey the desired illusion of the historic period, and yet the flat lighting and generic score make it aesthetically amateurish. It’s as if everyone in a small town comes together to piece together scenes and shoot them with the best equipment possible, but in the end, the lack of professional creativity shines through.

Still, the stale form isn’t the most disappointing variable in this barely competent work, but the cartoon-like performance. A range of incoherent and honestly laughable accents, which clearly do not respond to any nationality or region, only play against the already flatness of the writing.

Maturo (from Disney Channel’s “Girl Meets World”), the young actor driving this awkward dramatic vehicle, nails down some of the less moving scenes. But for the most part, and probably due to the management, he falls prey to overreacting in moments that require him to cry or give an angry speech. In the hands of a more skilful filmmaker, he may be able to modulate the emotion for a more credible result.

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