TIFF14 REVIEW: Vokseværk [Growing Pains] [2014]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 22 minutes | Release Date: 2014 (Denmark)
Director(s): Tor Fruergaard
Writer(s): Sissel Dalsgaard Thomsen

“Do you think she likes this?”

There is no subtly in the animal instinct category of metaphor where Tor Fruergaard‘s Vokseværk [Growing Pains] is concerned. Centering on a teenage boy (Elliott Crosse Hove‘s Fabian), this R-rated cartoon compares an adolescent’s sexual urges with that of a dog ready and willing to mount every female in heat he can find. What do we do to quell such a storm in man’s best friend? Castration. Luckily for newcomer in town Felicia (Amalie Lindegård), Fabian’s veterinarian mother Birte (Iben Hjejle) specializes in just that. But when the boy finds his desire for Felicia turning him into a werewolf whenever he’s the least bit horny, you have to wonder when Mommy will step in with her scissors there as well.

Fruergaard and screenwriter Sissel Dalsgaard Thomsen pull no punches in their depiction of puberty’s effect on child and parent alike. Whether the over-arching juxtaposition of a lustful teen unable to control himself as though he’s transforming into a monster or the comically disturbing visual queues like Felicia sitting with her dog between her legs in a way that can only be described as provocative, this is far from Disney fare. Subject matter aside, however, you cannot deny the effectiveness of its message of teaching young men they don’t need to feel shame as a result of lust, young girls that being sexually active doesn’t make them a slut, and prudish parents to wake up to the fact they can’t psychologically neuter their kids.

It’s a very funny and poignant coming-of-age story with twisted sensibilities, one that everyone watching can relate to on both sides of the coin. The short may be animated—brilliantly too I might add with what appear to be sets constructed out of paper for the cartoon characters to walk through—but that doesn’t mean watching a dog’s testicles get snipped is any easier to watch. While that may be the most jarring scene, don’t think it’s necessarily as far as Fruergaard and Thomsen will go. They are fearless in taking their parable to the extreme until Fabian and Felicia’s dog are barely distinguishable from one another. We simply must hope she’ll provide the patience and compassion to undo the damage his mother’s Puritanical mentality already inflicted.

courtesy of TIFF

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