In this wonderful Swedish film set in the 1950s, Ingemar (Anton Glanzelius) is a 12-year-old whose mother is dying of tuberculosis. His father has deserted them. Ingemar and his brother are sent away to separate relatives. Baffled by the strange world of adults, Ingemar reminds himself of the grim tragedies reported in the newspapers — especially the one involving Laika, the dog sent into space by the Russians and left to starve in the capsule far above earth.

Ingemar's curiosity emerges as he also grapples with the onslaught of puberty, which starts him wondering about his true feelings for Saga (Melinda Kinnaman), a tomboy who expresses her affection for him. Equally disconcerting is the mystery surrounding a voluptuous woman in the town who befriends Ingemar.

The finest moments in My Life as a Dog come when Ingemar must cope with the death of his mother and his beloved dog. Director Lasse Hallstrom shows how intelligence and humor pull him through. Ingemar's fierce and fragile hold on reality is as inspirational as Chuck's idealism.