The Power of the Dog (film)

The Power of the Dog is a 2021 western drama film written and directed by Jane Campion, based on the 1967 novel of the same name by Thomas Savage. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. The film is an international co-production between New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada.

The Power of the Dog
The Power of the Dog (film).jpg
Promotional release poster
Directed byJane Campion
Screenplay byJane Campion
Based onThe Power of the Dog
by Thomas Savage
Produced by
CinematographyAri Wegner
Edited byPeter Sciberras
Music byJonny Greenwood
Distributed by
Release date
  • September 2, 2021 (2021-09-02) (Venice)
  • November 11, 2021 (2021-11-11) (Australia and New Zealand)
  • November 17, 2021 (2021-11-17) (United States and United Kingdom)
Running time
126 minutes[1]
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Canada
Budget$30–39 million[2]
Box office$160,000 (estimate)[3]

The Power of the Dog had its world premiere at the 78th Venice International Film Festival on September 2, 2021, where Campion won the Silver Lion for Best Direction. The film had a limited theatrical release in Australia and New Zealand on November 11, 2021, and later in the United States and the United Kingdom on November 17. It will stream worldwide on Netflix on December 1. The film received acclaim from critics, who praised Campion's direction, the cinematography, and performances of the cast.


In 1925 Montana, wealthy ranch owner brothers Phil and George Burbank meet widow and inn owner Rose Gordon during a cattle drive. The kind-hearted George is quickly taken with Rose, while the volatile Phil, much influenced by his late mentor "Bronco" Henry, mocks Rose's son Peter for his lisp and effeminate manner.

George and Rose soon marry. Rose uses George's money to send her son to college to study medicine and surgery, while she moves into the Burbank ranch house. Phil immediately takes a dislike to her, believing she took advantage of George for his wealth. His rough ways and taunting manner unnerve her. George organizes a dinner party with his parents and the governor so they can meet Rose and hear her play their new piano. Phil, after being asked by George to wash up before dinner, is nowhere to be found. Rose is very reluctant to play the piano, citing her lack of ability, but is pressured to do so by George and their guests. She is unable to play more than a few notes and is further humiliated when Phil, still dirty, enters and belittles her. As they leave, she takes a drink of alcohol, something she was previously opposed to.

By the time Peter comes to stay at the ranch for the summer break, Rose has become an alcoholic, which she hides from George. Phil and his men taunt Peter, and he sequesters himself in his room, dissecting animals and studying diseases. In a secluded glade, Phil masturbates with Bronco Henry's handkerchief. Peter enters the glade and finds a stash of magazines with Bronco Henry's name on them depicting nude men. He observes Phil bathing in a pond with the kerchief around his neck; Phil notices him and chases him off.

Phil suddenly begins to show decency to Peter, offering to plait him a lasso from rawhide and teach him how to ride a horse. Phil is impressed when Peter immediately picks out a shadow in the shape of a dog on a nearby mountain. Peter, out on a solo ride, comes across a cattle carcass and cuts into its hide with a scalpel. Out on a fencing job, Peter and Phil corner and kill a rabbit, and Phil gets an open wound on his hand. Afterwards, Peter tells Phil about finding the body of his father, who had hanged himself.

Seeing how much time her son is spending with Phil, Rose's alcoholism worsens. Upon learning about Phil's policy of burning the hides he does not need for himself, Rose defiantly sells them to local Indigenous traders for a pair of gloves, then collapses from her rapid alcohol consumption.

With no hides to finish Peter's lasso, Phil is despondent until Peter offers him the hide he cut from the dead cattle. They spend the night in the barn finishing it, and Phil tells Peter a story of how Bronco Henry saved his life by combining their body heat in freezing weather and does not answer when Peter asks if they were naked. When Phil does not show up for breakfast the next morning, George finds him sickened in bed and his wound heavily infected. A delirious Phil looks for Peter to give him the finished lasso but George takes him away to the hospital before he can hand it over. In the next scene, George is seen picking out a coffin while Phil's body is prepared for burial.

At his funeral, a doctor tells George that Phil most likely died from anthrax, puzzling him, as Phil was always careful to avoid diseased cattle. Having not gone to the funeral, Peter reads a bible verse (Psalm 22:20) from the burial service: "Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog." He puts his finished lasso under his bed with gloved hands and watches George and a now sober Rose embrace, smiling, implying he intentionally gave Phil the diseased hide to save her life.



It was announced in May 2019 that Jane Campion was to write and direct the film with Benedict Cumberbatch and Elisabeth Moss cast to star.[4] Paul Dano entered negotiations to join the film in September.[5] He would be confirmed to star the next month, with Kirsten Dunst cast to replace Moss in her role.[6] However, by November, Dano also dropped out due to scheduling conflicts with The Batman. Jesse Plemons was cast to replace him.[7] In February 2020, Thomasin McKenzie, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Frances Conroy, Keith Carradine, Peter Carroll and Adam Beach were confirmed to be cast in the film.[8]

Filming began in New Zealand on January 10, 2020[9] in the southern region of Otago, including the city of Dunedin.[10] Production on the film was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although Cumberbatch, Dunst and Plemons reportedly remained in New Zealand during the country's lockdown. After border exemptions were granted for cast and crew, production resumed on June 22, 2020.[11]


The Power of the Dog had its world premiere at the 78th Venice International Film Festival on September 2, 2021, and had Special Presentation screenings at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival and Telluride Film Festival that same month.[12][13] By the end of its run, the film will screen at film festivals in Charlottesville,[14] London,[15] Middleburg,[16] Mill Valley,[17] Montclair,[18] New York (centerpiece screening)[19] San Diego,[20] San Sebastian,[21] Savannah[22] and Zurich.[23] The film also played at the 52nd International Film Festival of India in November.[24]

The film began a limited theatrical release in the United States and the United Kingdom on November 17, 2021, prior to streaming on Netflix worldwide on December 1.[25][26] The film's limited release in Australia and New Zealand commenced early on November 11, with theatrical distribution in both countries handled by Transmission Films, prior to its Netflix release.[27][28]


Box officeEdit

Although Netflix does not report box office grosses of its films, IndieWire estimated the film made $125,000 from 40 theaters in its opening weekend, and a total of $160,000 over its first five days.[3]

Critical responseEdit

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 95% based on 174 reviews, with an average rating of 8.40/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Brought to life by a stellar ensemble led by Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog reaffirms writer-director Jane Campion as one of her generation's finest filmmakers."[29] According to Metacritic, which assigned a weighted average score of 88 out of 100 based on 49 critics, the film received "universal acclaim".[30]

Reviewing the film for The Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney wrote: "This is an exquisitely crafted film, its unhurried rhythms continually shifting as plangent notes of melancholy, solitude, torment, jealousy and resentment surface. Campion is in full control of her material, digging deep into the turbulent inner life of each of her characters with unerring subtlety."[31] Owen Gleiberman of Variety wrote: "All of this should build, slowly and inexorably, in force and emotion. But for a film that’s actually, at heart, rather tidy and old-fashioned in its triangular gamesmanship, The Power of the Dog needed to get to a more bruising catharsis. In its crucial last act, the film becomes too oblique."[32]


Director Jane Campion won the Silver Lion for Best Direction at Venice.[33] She will also be honored with the "Mind the Gap - Best Innovation" award at Mill Valley.[17]

At TIFF, the film was second runner-up for the People's Choice Award.[34]


  1. ^ "The Power of the Dog". Venice International Film Festival. July 16, 2021. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
  2. ^ Keegan, Rebecca (September 10, 2021). "Jane Campion on 'The Power of the Dog's Toxic Masculinity and Why She Won't Make a Marvel Movie". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 11, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Brueggemann, Tom (November 21, 2021). "'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' $44 Million Opening Box Office Sets Up Sony to End the Year as a Star". IndieWire. Retrieved November 21, 2021.
  4. ^ Kroll, Justin (May 6, 2019). "Benedict Cumberbatch, Elisabeth Moss to Star in Jane Campion's New Film (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  5. ^ Kroll, Justin (September 29, 2019). "Paul Dano in Talks to Join Jane Campion's 'The Power of the Dog' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  6. ^ Kroll, Justin (October 8, 2019). "Kirsten Dunst to Replace Elisabeth Moss in Benedict Cumberbatch's 'Power of the Dog' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  7. ^ Kroll, Justin (November 21, 2019). "Jesse Plemons Joins Benedict Cumberbatch in Jane Campion's 'Power of the Dog' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  8. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (February 12, 2020). "'The Power Of The Dog': 'Jojo Rabbit's Thomasin McKenzie, Kodi Smit-McPhee & More Join Benedict Cumberbatch In Netflix Drama". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  9. ^ "Work starts on Netflix drama in Maniototo". Otago Daily Times. January 10, 2020. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  10. ^ "Campion film set arrives in Dunedin". Otago Daily Times. March 6, 2020. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  11. ^ Hunt, Tom (June 18, 2020). "Jane Campion movie starring Cumberbatch, Dunst is second film allowed in". Stuff. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  12. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (July 26, 2021). "Venice Film Festival Full Lineup Unveiled – Live Updates". Variety. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
  13. ^ Hammond, Pete (September 1, 2021). "Telluride Film Festival: Will Smith's 'King Richard', Peter Dinklage Musical 'Cyrano', Joaquin Phoenix In 'C'mon C'mon', Ken Branagh's 'Belfast' Set To Premiere". Deadline. Retrieved September 2, 2021.
  14. ^ Marcilla, Max. "Virginia Film Festival returns to in-person events in October". NBC29. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  15. ^ Yossman, K. J. (August 19, 2021). "Benedict Cumberbatch Film 'The Power of the Dog' to Headline BFI London Film Festival Gala". Variety. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  16. ^ Johnson, Mark (September 23, 2021). "The Middleburg Film Festival Announces First Films in 2021 Lineup". Awardsdaily - The Oscars, the Films and everything in between. Archived from the original on September 24, 2021. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  17. ^ a b Rubin, Gideon (September 9, 2021). "Mill Valley Film Festival Award To Go To 'Belfast' Star: Report". Mill Valley, CA Patch. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  18. ^ George, Liz (September 17, 2021). "Montclair Film Festival To Open with Wes Anderson's The French Dispatch". Baristanet. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  19. ^ Hayes, Dade (July 27, 2021). "Jane Campion's 'The Power Of The Dog' Chosen As New York Film Festival Centerpiece". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  20. ^ "The Power of the Dog". San Diego International Film Festival. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  21. ^ "Jane Campion's 'THE POWER OF THE DOG' to compete at San Sebastian Film Festival". HLA Management Australia. August 30, 2021. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  22. ^ "The Power of the Dog". SCAD Savannah Film Festival. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  23. ^ The Power of the Dog - Zurich Film Festival (in German), retrieved September 18, 2021
  24. ^ "In hybrid format, IFFI plans to draw big names and movies". The Indian Express. October 23, 2021. Retrieved October 31, 2021.
  25. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (August 23, 2021). "Netflix Dates Fall Movies: A Whopping 42 Movies Coming At You". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
  26. ^ Canfeld, David (August 23, 2021). "Jane Campion Finally Made a New Movie. She Gave It "Everything"". Vanity Fair. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
  27. ^ Transmission Films [@transmissionfilms] (September 12, 2021). "Brava!! Jane Campion has won the Silver Lion award for Best Director at @labiennale. The Power of the Dog is in cinemas November 11". Retrieved November 1, 2021 – via Instagram.
  28. ^ "The Power of the Dog". New Zealand Film Commission. Retrieved November 5, 2021.
  29. ^ "The Power of the Dog". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved November 16, 2021.
  30. ^ "The Power of the Dog Reviews". Metacritic. Red Ventures. Retrieved November 16, 2021.
  31. ^ Rooney, David (September 2, 2021). "Benedict Cumberbatch in Jane Campion's 'The Power of the Dog': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 21, 2021.
  32. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (September 2, 2021). "'The Power of the Dog' Review: Jane Campion's Psychodramatic Western Is Impeccably Crafted but Lacks the Major Voices of 'The Piano'". Variety. Retrieved November 21, 2021.
  33. ^ Roxborough, Scott; Ritman, Alex (September 11, 2021). "French Abortion Drama 'Happening' Wins Top Prize at Venice Film Festival". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  34. ^ Steve Pond, "‘Belfast’ Wins Toronto Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award". TheWrap, September 18, 2021.

External linksEdit