Step back in time for a moment—to the early 19th century. Among the rolling green hills of a small country village you will find Nello, a young orphaned boy who found solace in the home of his kindly grandfather, Jehan. The boy has artistic talent beyond his years. True giftedness. His grandfather recognizes his potential—as his daughter too held such talent, yet never lived to see her full potential. Along the way, Nello meets a dog (Patrasche) who soon becomes his closest companion. With his poverty and orphaned status stacked against him, the boy must overcome great odds to achieve his ultimate dream of being a recognized artist.
Positive Elements: This film has a great deal to say about true happiness. The emptiness of greed and wealth are exhibited throughout. Likewise, the invaluable joy of familial and peer relationships are held in high esteem. Nello’s grandfather is quick to remind the boy that his artistic abilities are from God, and that He has a plan for using him in this capacity. In spite of his very difficult circumstances, Nello’s character shines. He is polite to his elders, passionate about his artistic gift, honest, persevering and optimistic.
Spiritual Content: The concept of eternal life is explored. Nello longs to know more about his mother, who died when he was a baby. His grandfather reassures him that he will see her again stating, “Our real home is with God and He will not be happy until we all come back with Him.” He also consoles the young lad through words like, “Remember, she is here with you now.” Their shared artistic talent allows Nello to feel a closeness to the mother he never really knew. [WARNING: Major plot point revealed.] Toward the end of the film, Nello has a near death experience. During this scene, the famous artist who he has always admired (who, by the way, is dead) leads him down a lighted hallway and into the arms of his mother and grandfather. Nello proceeds to view his own funeral, from above, and then resolves to return to his earthly body.
Sexual Content: Minimal. In one scene, the Cogez’s maid admits to having been with a shrewd landlord one night in their barn. As she is recalling this event, viewers are provided with a glimpse into the night in question—showing the maid rearranging her dress before leaving him.
Violent Content: In one scene, Patrasche is whipped by his cruel owner and is left to die. Later, after Nello has rescued him and nursed him back to health, the original owner attempts to take the dog back. Eventually, this erupts into a violent scene (in which knives and swords are employed) in the open market place. In the end, the mean owner is killed.
Crude or Profane Language: Three uses of the word “d—.”
Drug and Alcohol Content: One evening, Carl Cogez and the landlord mentioned earlier drink too much ale while sitting by the fire. This is the same night that the landlord had his romp with the Cogez’s maid in the barn.
Summary: Based on a timeless children’s book, this film has much to offer. It is a story of hope. Of dreaming dreams. And overcoming the odds. While the quality of cinematography is a bit underdeveloped, and even distracting at times, A Dog of Flanders has a huge heart. Big enough for many families to warmly embrace.