My Life as a Dog

My Life as a Dog

Film poster
Directed by Lasse Hallström
Produced by Waldemar Bergendahl
Written by Lasse Hallström
Reidar Jönsson (novel)
Brasse Brännström
Per Berglund
Based on Mitt liv som hund
by Reidar Jönsson
Music by Björn Isfält
Cinematography Jörgen Persson
Edited by Christer Furubrand
Susanne Linnman
Distributed by AB Svensk Filmindustri
Release dates
  • 12 December 1985 (1985-12-12) (Sweden)
Running time
101 minutes
Country Sweden
Language Swedish
Box office $8,345,266 (North America)[1]

My Life as a Dog (Swedish: Mitt liv som hund) is a Swedish drama film which was released to cinemas in Sweden on 12 December 1985,[2] directed by Lasse Hallström. It is based on the second novel of a semi-autobiographical[3] trilogy by Reidar Jönsson. It tells the story of Ingemar, a young boy sent to live with relatives. The cast includes Anton Glanzelius, Melinda Kinnaman and Tomas von Brömssen.


The action takes place in the years 1958-1959 in Sweden.[4] Troubled 12 year-old Ingemar (Anton Glanzelius) gets into all sorts of trouble, which bothers his mother (Anki Lidén); Ingemar does not know that his mother is in fact terminally ill. When he and his older brother become too much for her, they are split up and sent to live with relatives. Ingemar ends up with his maternal uncle Gunnar (Tomas von Brömssen) and his wife Ulla (Kicki Rundgren) in a small rural town in Småland. Gunnar and Ingemar bond over Povel Ramel's recording of "Far, jag kan inte få upp min kokosnöt".

In the town he encounters a variety of characters. Saga (Melinda Kinnaman), an assertive tomboy his own age, likes him, and shows it by beating him in a boxing match. Among the more eccentric residents is Fransson (Magnus Rask), a man who continually fixes the roof of his house, and Mr. Arvidsson (Didrik Gustavsson), an old man living downstairs who gets Ingemar to read to him from a lingerie catalog.

Later, Ingemar is reunited with his family, but his mother soon takes a turn for the worse and is hospitalized. He and his brother go to stay with their uncle Sandberg (Leif Ericson) in the city, but his wife thinks the boy is mentally disturbed. After his mother passes away, he is sent back to Småland.

Mr. Arvidsson has died in the interim; Gunnar and Ulla now share the house with a large Greek family. Gunnar welcomes him and consoles him as best he can, but the house is so crowded, he has Ingemar live with Mrs. Arvidsson in another house. Meanwhile, Ingemar becomes the object of contention between Saga and another girl. When they start fighting over him, he grabs onto Saga's leg and starts barking like a dog. She becomes upset by his strange behavior and gets him into the boxing ring. During the bout, out of spite, she tells him that his beloved dog (which he had thought was in a kennel) was actually euthanized. This, along with his mother's death, is too much for him and he locks himself inside Gunnar's one-room "summer house" in the backyard. While secluded here, Ingemar reflects on the death of his mother, the loss of his dog and a changing world. Ingemar uses the experiences of others and of his own personal loss to reconcile a life which is sometimes tough.

Throughout the film, Ingemar tells himself over and over that it could have been worse, reciting several examples, such as a man who took a shortcut onto the field during a track meet and was killed by a javelin and the story of the dog Laika several times, the first creature sent into orbit by the Russians (without any way to get her back down).

The film ends with the radio broadcast of a famous heavyweight championship boxing match, between Swede Ingemar Johansson and American Floyd Patterson. When Johansson wins, the whole town erupts with joy, but the now-reconciled Ingemar and Saga are fast asleep together on a couch.



The movie received mostly positive reviews, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it an average of 7.9/10. 100% of the critics at Rotten Tomatoes have given the film a positive review based on 28 reviews.

The author Kurt Vonnegut said the film to be one of his favourites, alongside Casablanca and All About Eve.[6]


The film was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Director and Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. It won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1988.

Award Category Name Outcome
60th Academy Awards Best Director Lasse Hallström Nominated
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium Lasse Hallström, Reidar Jönsson, Brasse Brännström, Per Berglund Nominated
BAFTA Awards Best Foreign Language Film Waldemar Bergendahl, Lasse Hallström Nominated
Bodil Awards Best European Film Lasse Hallström Won
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards Best Foreign Language Film Won
Directors Guild of America Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Lasse Hallström Nominated
45th Golden Globe Awards Best Foreign Language Film Won
21st Guldbagge Awards[7] Best Film Won
Best Actor Anton Glanzelius Won
Independent Spirit Awards Best Foreign Film Lasse Hallström Won
Lucas - International Festival of Films for Children and Young People Children's Section Lasse Hallström Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Foreign Language Film Won
Robert Award Best Foreign Film Lasse Hallström Won
Seattle International Film Festival Best Film Won
Young Artist Awards Special Award - Best Family Foreign Film Won
Special Award - Best Young Actor in a Foreign Film Anton Glanzelius Won
Special Award - Best Young Actress in a Foreign Film Melinda Kinnaman Won

Attempted sequel/trilogy

A production was to have been in the works in the early 1990s on an English language sequel titled either My Life as a Dog at Sea or My Father, His Son. In this version, Ingemar has aged four years from the days in the 1950s when his ailing mother sent him off to live with relatives in the country. At 16, he is aboard a freighter in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic, searching for his sailor father, having adventures in North African ports and misadventures with young women on land and at sea. Anton Glanzelius was in talks to reprise his role and Reidar Jonsson was to return as screenwriter. Jonsson was also to have been the film's producer. The film was to have been directed by Graeme Clifford. According to Jonsson, it was to have been part of a planned trilogy.[8][9]


  1. "My Life as a Dog (1987)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved December 11, 2010.
  2. "Mitt liv som hund" (in Swedish). Swedish Film Database. 12 December 1985. Retrieved 24 September 2016.
  3. Epstein, Robert (23 January 1992). "Reidar Jonsson: His Life as a Writer". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  4. The film's plot can be dated through its references to the 1958 Football World Cup and the 1959 boxing match between Ingemar Johansson and Floyd Patterson
  5. "".
  7. "My Life As a Dog (1985)". Swedish Film Institute. 14 March 2014.
  8. Van Gelder, Lawrence (9 November 1989). "Tortured History". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  9. "Swedish Film `My Life As A Dog` To Get Sequel In English". Chicago Tribune. 5 December 1991. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
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