Owd Bob (1998)
post written by Esther Filbrun
Title: Owd Bob (1998; PG – NZ*)
Director: Rodney Gibbons
Major Themes: Bitterness, Dogs, Farming, Forgiveness
Synopsis: When David goes to spend the summer after his parent’s death with his grandfather, he lands in the middle of the man’s feuds—many of which center around his dog.
I love perusing friend’s bookshelves when I get to their place, seeing if they have any of my old favorites, and picking out ones that I think would be interesting to read. Recently, when looking at a movie shelf, I picked out Owd Bob. As a farm girl—although I grew up with poultry, not sheep—I’m always interested in farming stories, and this looked good. I just wouldn’t know how good until I got into it. My time for movie-watching shrank soon afterward, but this past week, I squeezed in enough time to watch it—and what an interesting story!
Recently orphaned, David is sent to live with his grandfather on the Isle of Man. They’ve never met, and his grandfather isn’t at all sure about having him in the first place, but David went there for the summer anyway. Things don’t get easier once he’s there, though. His grandfather seems to have a feud with just about everyone he comes in contact with, and the men in the village seem eager to pin blame on the man and his dog. With mounting tensions in the home, and unspoken secrets, David isn’t sure what to think—but then his grandfather tells him he must not visit with a neighbor girl. Even though he tries to be obedient, times are hard—and when tragedy hits the neighbor girl’s family, he feels like he needs to try to show them he still cares. But when things start getting out of hand, and a dog is blamed for something it didn’t do, can he make the right decision and protect the innocent?
I’m finding Owd Bob somewhat of a hard story to categorize. When I was telling Mom about it, she said she’d read a very similar story in an old book called Bob, Son of Battle, and I believe this movie was based on that book. Unfortunately, I felt like the “Bob” part wasn’t there quite as much as I was hoping it was—for being named after the dog, there didn’t seem to be much about the dog in the end. Or perhaps that’s just my perception? I don’t know.
There were several elements to this story—some made up, I’m sure—that I really did appreciate. Although it made for something of a more “downer” movie, it tackled some difficult subjects. Not from a Christian point of view, unfortunately—and the lack of the hope we have in Jesus was striking—but it still had some life truth.
First, bitterness was shown as the heart-eating monster it is. One man throughout the movie is exceedingly bitter—and since he doesn’t recognize it, or recognize the effect it’s had on his family and friends, he ends up friendless and broken.
Second, parental death is part of the story. I couldn’t imagine going through something like this the way the characters had to experience it, but I was impressed that it was here. It wasn’t glossed over, or shown as something that happens and is done; the emotional rollercoaster afterward is traced, and different characters get to step in at different times to help the hurting. I loved that (not the death, of course, but the way they reacted).
And third, I loved the farming aspect of the movie. If the Isle of Man is anything like it is portrayed in the movie, it looks very similar to New Zealand. And I loved that this movie was based around a very practical setting like this. Although there actually weren’t that many animals visible in here (lots of sounds!), I still enjoyed the setting.
Owd Bob is a great story, although I would recommend you glance over the warnings before you choose it. I’d love to see this kind of story portrayed with a Christian worldview—and I’m sure it’s probably out there somewhere—but even though this isn’t that way, I think there could be a lot learned from it. Recommended.
*This movie is rated PG in New Zealand, but the rating may be different in other areas of the world.
WARNING: At 6:36, a man uses the word “bloody”. At 7:02, someone describes a man as being in a “pig of a mood.” 25:50–26:17 shows a dog with blood on its mouth. At 36:02, someone says “talk of the devil”, and shows men drinking at the pub. At 36:24, a man says “bloody” again. From 39:22–40:43, a girl’s mother is dying (this was built up to throughout the first part of the movie). At 41:18, someone says “where the h—”. 41:49–42:29 shows part of a funeral.
There was one scene that was particularly bad with language, from 43:54–45:32. Specific instances: 43:54—“be d—ed”, 44:14—“to h— with”, 44:28—“bloody”, 44:52—“d— you”, 44:54—“bloody”, 45:21—“to h— with her”, 45:24–45:32 “to h— with you” (x2), (shouting) “I hate you”.
For the rest of the movie: At 46:41, someone says “bloody well”. At 49:16, a boy holds and comforts a girl. At 50:02, a boy and girl talk about an accident with a drunk driver; the boy tells of watching both of his parents get killed in the accident. At 52:18 and again at 56:05, a man is drinking. At 56:53, there is a brief shot of a lamb with a bloodied neck. From 58:36–59:30, there is almost a fight at the pub and people are drinking. At 1:07:52, a dog is eating a sheep. At 1:11:24, a girl pretends to have a hurt ankle, and she lies to her father from here through 1:13:49, trying to protect a dog. At 1:15:49, a dog has blood on its mouth. And from 1:20:42–1:21:07, a dog is taken away to be killed because he was a sheep killer; you hear the gunshot, but don’t see the body.
Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults
Keywords: Bitterness, Dogs, Farming, Forgiveness, Animal Stories, Europe