In “Sleeping Dogs,” Canuck regionalist Terrance Odette continues his no-compromise low-budget aesthetics and gnarly compassion for down-on-their-luck protagonists. This limited release at home should wake up international cinematheque programmers, followed by a small pack of DVD fans.
Organically shaped tale is related to rambling but emotionally tight 1999 breakthrough, “Heater,” which centered on losers wandering around wintry Winnipeg. But this Ontario-set story is even simpler, with a compressed timeframe.
“Dogs” is limited to a single day in the lives of ordinary people, and there is painful truth (along with some tedium) to their peregrinations around the uglier reaches of Kitchener-Waterloo, the scripter-helmer’s hometown. Auds are left to figure out what’s going between blind diabetic Jarrod Gloss (Brian Stillar) and his younger brother (K. Alan Sapp), who’s due to take him out of the hospital and place him in a long-term care facility not of his choosing.
Already in a permanent bad mood, Jarrod’s really PO’d about the news that his bro has arranged to have his faithful dog put down. The cranky ward feels like a sick old mutt himself, and he escapes into the feeble sunshine in search of booze, oblivion or maybe the local pound.
African-American orderly Thomas (Tony Adah), who has his own issues, goes after Jarrod, and when he finally tracks him down, they find themselves in a hellish suburban development that has them both baffled. The rest of the day is spent wondering what new odd turn this odd couple will take.
Stillar and Adah are not quite up to the level of thesps Gary Farmer and Stephen Ouimette in “Heater.” But Odette isn’t too interested in technical fireworks, whether that involves actors or camera moves, although these are generally up to snuff (along with an unexpectedly rootsy soundtrack, heavy on scratchy Jimmie Rodgers ditties).
In short, there’s little here for people who like their pics loud, colorful and tidy. But “Sleeping Dogs” does offer some raw meat for auds willing to sniff out a little something extra.