Red Dog is an Australian hero, commemorated with his own statue outside the town of Dampier and made famous to non-Australians through Louis de Bernieres' novel Red Dog, based on the local stories told about the dog (which was made into a film of the same name in 2011).
Red Dog, True Blue is a fictionalised account of Red Dog's life before he became a hero, with the original film referenced at the beginning and throughout the narrative.
Eleven year old Mike (Levi Miller) is sent to live with his grandfather (Bryan Brown) on his remote rural farm station. Mike finds a dog (played by Pheonix, as Koko the star of Red Dog the film had died) after a storm. At first the dog is blue due to the colour of the mud he's covered in so Mike calls him Blue, though once the mud washes off the dog is found to be red, but, for now at least, the name Blue sticks. The two quickly become inseparable, to the detriment of Mike's education, and enjoy exploring the outback together, including finding a secret lake in a cave that is culturally significant to the local aboriginal people. Mike's young tutor, Betty, brought in to ensure the boy pays attention to his learning, introduces complications into the mostly male community on the station.
All the actors are impressive in their roles, but Blue is consistently at the centre of the film. This is a first role for Pheonix and he totally steals the show, proving to be an expressive and endearing canine actor.
This is a beautiful film with stunning cinematography of the Australian outback acting as a backdrop to a family friendly story of growing up and learning to deal with loss and bringing in the issue of Aboriginal land rights. Moving and entertaining, with plenty of humour and the occasional dose of mild peril, this is well worth seeing - remember to take a hanky with you!
You can enjoy this film whether or not you've seen the original film or read de Bernieres' novel, but I would strongly recommend the novel! (I sadly haven't had the chance to see the original film of Red Dog).
Red Dog True Blue is showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival at: 6pm Thursday 29 June at Odeon Lothian Road and at 11am on Saturday 1 July at Filmhouse. You can buy tickets here.
Here are links to the other films I've seen in the festival:
The Dark Mile.
A Distant Echo.
God's Own Country.
Journey's through Time and Culture (review of Zer, Sami Blood and Donkeyote).
Two Films about our relationship with animals (review of Okja and The Challenge).
Leaning into the Wind.
My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea.
Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended press screenings of these films.