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Film / Lawn Dogs

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Trent: I'll make you a deal. We can be friends, if you can keep it a secret.
Devon: What's wrong with you and me being friends?

1997 drama film starring Sam Rockwell and a very young Mischa Barton. It tells the story of the unlikely friendship between a 10-year-old upper-middle-class girl, Devon, with heart problems and a morbid outlook on life, and an eccentric lower-class working stiff, Trent, in a gated community full of upper-middle-class complete jerks in the Deep South.

Devon is told by her parents not to leave the gates of the community they live in. She does precisely that, and while wandering around, meets Trent, who is poor and lives in a trailer. Fascinated by him, Devon attempts to become friends with him, even sneaking out and lying to her parents to do so. Naturally, Trent realizes that a lower-class grown man hanging out with an upper-middle-class preteen girl is asking for trouble, and tries to shoo Devon away. Eventually, he gives in to her charms.


Trent has a number of run-ins with the townspeople who seem to hate or distrust him for being lower-class. Devon witnesses some of these run-ins, along with other events that cause her to become disaffected and turn against society. Much like Trent, Devon rebels in her own eccentric and unusual ways, along with a fair amount of Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour. When the two are together, they share tremendous energy and engage in a great deal of mischief, much of it being Devon's idea.

Things come to a violent head, however, when Devon's parents learn about the friendship and misinterpret it.

Do NOT confuse this movie with Straw Dogs, which is far, far darker.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: With the possible exception of Trent, the only adult who understands Devon (and not completely).
  • Ambiguously Gay: Sean.
  • Angry Guard Dog: Tracker.
  • Anti-Hero: Two of them, both Devon and Trent.
  • Attempted Rape: Brett, to Devon, ironically enough. Contrast her parent's reaction when she tries to tell them a "nice boy" has attacked her to their immediate assumption that Trent is a pedophile.
  • Bang, Bang, BANG: At the end, Devon firing a pistol with the sound of a rifle.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted somewhat with Devon.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: The neighborhood boy who bugs people and is actually the one that stole the street lamps and music from the bullies.
  • Burping Contest
  • Chekhov's Gun: Devon's father's gun.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Devon loosely narrates a fantastical version of her life throughout the film, and her conversation patterns have a...unique logic to them.
  • Corrupt Hick: Trent mentions having been shot by a cop who left him for dead.
  • Corruption by a Minor: Devon convinces Trent to do illegal mischief.
  • Covers Always Lie: The box for the US version makes the movie look like some kind of romance involving Trent and a woman, when in fact the woman plays a minor role in the story, and the film is definitely not a romance. Well, it is a (chaste) romance, but between Devon and Trent.
  • Crapsack World: Trent and Devon are two of maybe four sympathetic characters in the film.
  • Deep South
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The last shot of the film switches from color to black and white.
  • Description Cut: The security guard and Devon's father are wondering who steals the lamps. Cut to the little boy playing soldier, throwing said lamps around as hand grenades.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Just before Brett attempts to molest Devon, he strokes her face and lips with a bullet, and asks her "Do you wanna know what it feels like to have it go inside?"
  • Double Standard: When Devon tells her parents that Brett, the neighbor, was molesting her, they ask questions to double-check the facts, resulting in Devon backing out of the accusation. The parents are visibly relieved that Brett didn't do anything bad (which in reality, he did). Later, when she tells them that Trent, a poor man who works as lawn-mower for the neighborhood, "didn't hurt [her]", they immediately assume that he is a pedophile, and despite Devon trying to reassure them that he didn't molest her, they go after him.
  • Harmful to Minors: Devon witnesses Trent getting it on with a woman, and later, her own mother cheating on her father. If that's not enough, an adult bully tries to sexually abuse Devon. Then even later, a cop and her father start beating up Trent, in full view of Devon.
  • Heroic Bystander: Devon.
  • Intergenerational Friendship
  • Jerk Jock: The adult bullies.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • The little boy never gets caught for all the mischief he causes.
    • Brett gets away with having an affair with Devon's mother and molesting Devon.
  • Mercy Kill: After Trent accidentally runs over the dog with his car (well, they were chasing it, but running over was not their intention), he sees that it is badly hurt and dying. He delivers a mercy kill with what he has at hand: in this case, beating it up with a wooden stick. Devon doesn't take his action well. It can be seen that his intentions were not bad by him returning it to the community wrapped in a flag.
  • Mistaken for Pedophile: A non-comedic and quite tragic example.
  • Mooning: Trent and Devon to the security guard and Devon's father, who are too far away to recognize them, but they do recognize the mooning.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Even when he does wear a shirt, Trent somehow never manages to button it all the way up.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Devon gets angry at Trent for killing the dog and tells everything to her parents. This directly results in him getting Mistaken for Pedophile and getting beat up.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Part of Trent's backstory, as he was left for dead by some corrupt cops.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Trent
  • Not What It Looks Like: Played seriously.
  • Pædo Hunt: Inevitably.
  • Please Put Some Clothes On: Trent to Devon.
  • Precocious Crush: Heavily implied.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You:
    • The little boy near the beginning points his toy pistol at Devon like this.
    • Devon gets this at the end after she shoots the bully who wants to kill Trent.
  • Secret Relationship
  • Stepford Suburbia
  • Suck Out the Poison: Done in a squicky way. Devon sucks on Trent's finger after he cuts it on a chainsaw. He gets disturbed and pulls away.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour: A hell of a lot! Even more troubling since Devon acts realistically her age, and therefore does things that are messed up, yet in a realistically childlike way. This is justified by the screenwriter in an interview:
    "Also, children are expected to be a certain way, and I like the unexpectedness of how children really are if you watch them. (...) Sometimes children just don't go by the rules, they often have a natural inclination not to, which we as adults have often lost."
  • We Do Not Know Each Other: A woman Trent has a fling with later avoids him at a party.
  • World of Symbolism: The film sort of has a literal level but it's very surreal and then at the ending kind of throws the literal story away entirely to continue talking about what it had been talking about the whole time up until then in completely unalloyed abstraction.