Desmin Borges as Walt in “Hangdog.” Submitted photo

Director Matt Cascella (Netflix’s “Long Shot”) and writer Jen Cordery bring their work to the Maine Film Center’s annual Maine International Film Festival on its opening night in their shiny new home.

In “Hangdog,” we’re given a nice, heartwarming, nerve-snapping, dognapping comedy to start with full of the noise, smell of lobster, beer and surprises good and not so good that no one was expecting.

We’re invited to Matt Cascella’s “Hangdog.”

Here we meet Walt, (Desmin Borges) a street guy hoping for a couple of brighter days.

Walt’s actually a good guy at heart: A nervous nail-chewer with a bad wardrobe who is trying to hold on.

Walt, never without his tardy one-size-fits-all stocking cap, has moved into his home in Portland with Wendy, a sweet lady with a promising future (Kelly O’Sullivan), his better-educated and better-clothed overachieving girlfriend.


Wendy is packing to leave for a big job in New York, and she’s stressed about leaving her cute little terrier, Tony, with Walt. So are we.

If you were to pass Walt on the street, you wouldn’t think of leaving your kitchen broom with him, but when a nice girl believes in you, what can you lose?

Between unpacking and adjusting to his new apartment, Walt mumbles, tries to adjust and proposes to do his best to take care of Tony. Walt knows if he messes up, he could lose Wendy and his new future.

Walt takes sweet Tony and his light blue leash to the market to get food. On the way home, Walt stops at a local marijuana shop, looking for some brand to stop his jitters and self-loathing, leaving Tony outside tied to a pipe.

Are we nervous? Yes, we are.

When Walt comes out with his “medication,” Tony is gone, leaving only his leash and the pipe.


Walt’s panic grows like a fever. He stalks the darkening Portland streets frantically, like Timmy looking for Lassie.

He knows that if his girlfriend’s beloved Tony has been grabbed and taken to China, he might as well move there.

He searches the alleys and doorways for Tony, bellowing his name as hundreds of dogs bark.

Watching the search through our fingers, we join Walt on a comic, panic-stricken odyssey through the streets of Portland, where he finds endless conversational help from a nice, talkative neighbor (a terrific Barbara Rosenblat, “Orange is the New Black”), who grows her own fragile thyme in the yard, and gives endless advice.

Walt gets busy and distributes posters made with Tony’s picture and a big money offer reward, that on passing advice, he keeps upping.

Eventually, all of this leads him to a teenager who says he has the dog, but robs Walt of his engagement ring, cash and then flees.


Walt’s frantic odyssey takes us with him to the distant rocky shores of Peaks Island, where “Brent’’ (Steve Coulter, Amazon’s “Shotgun Wedding”), a pickle-loving drunk, tries to help.

Brent somehow leads Walt to the home of the teenager and his irate mother (a terrific Catherine Curtin from “Stranger Things”), where nothing is solved.

On the street again, the fate of Tony still hangs in the air as the search goes on. Throughout the day and night, Walt runs excuses through his head, knowing none of them will convince Wendy, and he will be left with all of his new tomorrows in one pocket with crumbs and loose change.

I expected a well-done homemade comedy here about a missing dog (where did they get that great Tony?), with mourning owners and a looming tragedy filled with a pleasant cast of local, good supporting players from Maine, of which we have many.

I was pleasantly surprised. All of the players, including those with only a line or two, were super-polished performers giving rich texture to a solid script.

It looks to this reviewer that before long, “made in Maine” films like “Hangdog” will appear at the Oscars.

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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