My Life as a Dog (1987): Lasse Hallstrom’s (Oscar Nominated) Coming of Age Tale

One of the most charming and touching coming of age tales, Lasse Hallstrom’s My Life as a Dog was deservedly nominated for two major Oscars (see below).

My Life as a Dog (Mitt Liv Som Hund) is based on the autobiographical novel by Reidar Jonsson.  Set in Sweden in 1959, the tale centers on Ingemar (Anton Glanzelius), a boy of 12 living with his dying mother and his nasty older brother, who torments him.

Ingemar survives all of life’s knocks by comparing himself to those who are worse off–such as Laika, the little Russian space dog who was rocketed to his death and had nothing to say in the matter.

As the fable progresses, Ingemar, feeling unwanted, begins to identify with Laika more, while his mother’s health severely deteriorates;  he often drops to all fours and bays at the moon.

When his mother is advised to get some quiet away from her children, Ingemar is sent to live with his uncle and aunt. It’s the first time that he is surrounded by relatives and classmates who pose no threat and who really like him.

Through his misadventures, he observes a naked model and even gets to experience sort of a sexual awakening.

When his mother dies, he no longer rationalizes his misfortunes by comparing himself to those less fortunate.  He now conjure up pleasant memories of his summer away from home to sustain him through the hard times.

It’s impossible to imagine this lyrical bitter-sweet dramedy without the central charismatic performance by Anton Glanzelius.

This lovely movie introduced to American audiences Lasse Hallstrom, and soon he was invited to Hollywood, where he directed Once Around (1991) and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993).

At the time, some critics felt that Hallstrom took the directing slot that should have been occupied by James L. Brooks for Broadcast News.

Oscar Nominations: 2

Director: Lasse Hallstrom


Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Best Director and Best Screenplay was Bertolucci for The Last Emperor, which he co-penned with Mark Peploe.


Running time: 105 Minutes.

Directed by Lasse Hallstrom

Written by Hallstrom, Reidar Jonsson, and Per Berglund

Released by Skouras, December 12, 1987

DVD: February 23, 1999