My Life as a Dog

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
My Life as a Dog Movie Poster Image
Sensitive subtitled coming-of-age movie for older kids.
  • PG
  • 1987
  • 101 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A sense of hope and optimism runs through what is otherwise a sad story of a boy losing his mother. The benefits of creativity and cross-generational friendships are explored. The experience of a boy coming of age is treated honestly and with sensitivity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ingemar is a curious, friendly kid experiencing the ups and downs of growing up. His mother, who is gravely ill, treats her sons mostly with impatience, but also with love. Secondary characters are complex, but mostly positive influences.


There is some tension when Ingemar and his mother argue and she breaks down crying and tries to hit and push him away. The boy falls through a roof and gets some scrapes. Ingemar's mother is gravely ill, and a boy loses a pet.


A couple quick glimpses of a 12-year-old girl's breasts as she tries to unsuccessfully flirt with a boy her age, plus an adult female poses nude for an artist and her naked body is visible several times, though sensitive parts are always covered or mostly obscured. Sexual tension between pubescent kids. Flirting and jealousy between adults. An adult has a boy read him underwear advertisements, which he hides from his wife. Adults talk about breasts and "boobs" with kids. A teen boy tells a group of kids about how pregnancy happens and asks his 12-year-old brother to demonstrate by putting his penis into a bottle (nothing is visible), and his penis gets stuck.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A man smokes a pipe.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that My Life as a Dog is a wonderful subtitled film with brief, non-sexual nudity in an artist's studio. Also, viewers see a quick flash of a 12-year-old girl's breast, and there are several scenes of mild sexual tension between pubescent kids, as well as other sexually suggestive moments throughout. The main character, a 12-year-old boy, deals with several major losses over the course of the movie, though there is an overall sense of optimism to the film.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byRay R. July 7, 2017

Not for kids

Way too sexual for kids. Too many weird sexual references all throughout the film. Very odd film.
Adult Written byaiksa June 6, 2015

not for kids

Although this movie is about kids, it is hard for kids to relate to. It is quite depressing. Very serious things happen and parts that lighten it up by humour... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bydr.moriartemisha November 10, 2014

my life as a dog

lovely, nostalgic film. a touching story that is also funny, my father showed me this an I really liked it. good for 11+
Teen, 16 years old Written byhamstergurl09 November 8, 2010

Very Good

I LOVE this movie. The characters are so relatable, and the story is excellent. However, there are some sexual things in it. I'd recommend this movie for p... Continue reading

What's the story?

MY LIFE AS A DOG centers on Ingemar, a 12-year-old boy growing up in 1950's Sweden who goes to live with his aunt and uncle in Smaland while his mother is dying of tuberculosis. In the small town of Smaland he meets an assortment of eccentric and delightful characters who help him adjust to his new life without his mother, brother, and his beloved dog Sickan (he has never known his father). He meets an athletic girl who loves to box, but who also develops a crush on Ingemar. Berit, the most beautiful woman in town, befriends Ingemar asks him to chaperon her when she models for the town artist. Ulla and Gunar, his aunt and uncle, adopt Ingemar and help him find family and normalcy during a traumatic period in his life.

Is it any good?

Told from young Ingemar's perspective, My Life As a Dog is an affecting and authentic portrayal of a young boy's attempt to understand the adult world. The director shows us Ingemar's world through a child's eyes, so that the smallest events and the largest are presented as equally important. He does not know enough to be able to distinguish ordinary behavior from eccentricity, or to fully understand why a nude model would want a young boy as a chaperone or why a dying man would be so interested in underwear catalogues. His acceptance of everyone he meets is part of his appeal.

Ingemar does not have enough experience of the world to be able to understand what his mother's symptoms mean, or to wonder if she will die. Because no one told him how ill she was, he blames himself for her death. He does not have the opportunity to express his grief, which adds to his feeling of disorientation and his identification with a dog who is circling the globe in a space capsule. The only comfort he (and the audience) have is the sense that his ability to form relationships with the new people in his life will be a source of strength and happiness to him in the future.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Ingemar always say it's important to "compare"? Why do you think that Ingemar compares himself to Laika the space dog? Why does Ingemar tell us that he wishes he told his mom everything?

  • How does this movie compare to other coming-of-age movies? How does it treat sexuality among kids and teens?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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