Tag Archives: Ethan Eng

Senior Pictures

Therapy Dogs

by Rachel Willis

Writer/director Ethan Eng (along with co-writer Justin Morrice) crafts a slice-of-life look at adolescence with his debut feature, Therapy Dogs. Eng and Morrice also play fictionalized versions of themselves, two friends seeking to document the truth about high school as they embark on their senior year.   

Your enjoyment of Therapy Dogs will likely rest entirely on whether or not you find the antics of adolescent boys annoying. There are the things that seem typical: drinking and parties and pot. Then, perhaps, the not so typical: exploring abandoned buildings and making dumb decisions like jumping off a railroad bridge into the water (which may or may not be deep enough for such a drop).

One thing the film highlights is that boys in 2019 are very much like the boys with whom I went to school in the mid- to late-1990s. And as the 90s have come back around in fashion, if not for the presence of cell phones, I might have thought I was watching something from my own adolescence.

The film runs the gauntlet of found footage style adventuring but at times appears more adept. The naturalism will occasionally give way to something more subtle. These are the moments when it’s unclear who’s behind the camera. Is this still part of the boys’ senior film, or does it represent the presence of an omniscient narrator? Regardless, it works to help hold together the disjointed segments.

The success of the film lies in its accuracy around the portrayal of teenagers, particularly boys, as they ponder the future and wonder what lies ahead. Though the film jumps around and never seems to settle on a plot, you come to realize that there is a commentary on growing up and how baffling it is that so many boys survive such bad choices.

Teenage boys are essentially teenage boys. Though teenagers today have different pressures than those of past generations, they still make stupid decisions, crack each other up with bad jokes, tell “epic” stories, fight, and eventually – if they survive their poor decision making – grow up. Eng captures it all in a way that feels as familiar as it does unique.

There are some filmmaking choices that are just as likely to be off-putting as they are to be engaging, but there’s no denying that the movie’s realism is what makes it relevant. This is an ageless tale of youthful exuberance that brings its own distinct perspective.