Toxic masculinity represents a time in human history in which men were expected to be men. There was little room for feelings or expressing themselves in an open or healthy manner.
The 2021 Netflix film, The Power of the Dog, is based on the book of the same name by Thomas Savage. In Montana in 1925, brothers Phil and George Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons) have taken over the running of the family ranch. Phil is a man’s man in every sense of the word, George is considerate and emotionally open.
On the road to the market, they eat at a restaurant owned by Rose Gordon (Kirsten Dunst) and her teenage son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Rose is a widow who has been forced to change her life to support herself and Peter after the abrupt passing of her late husband. Phil’s callous and cruel jokes drive both mother and son to tears. George tries to make up for his brother’s actions, which turns into a marriage proposal. When Rose and Peter enter Phil’s orbit as his sister-in-law and nephew, this new reality turns his world upside down. Taking the boy under his wing, Phil swings between mocking Peter and teaching him how to run a ranch.
The question is, has Phil started to change, or is this a ploy to continue his brutish ways?
It has nothing to do with the performers or the story itself. Director and co-screenwriter Jane Campion does what she does best. Cumberbatch once again proves that he is one of the most versatile actors in the business. Plemmons and Dunst are well cast for their roles and the perfect ying to Cumerbatch’s yang. Smit-McPhee is a young actor who solely based on his one role, has a bright future. The problem is that I was on the verge of being bored and wondering why I should care about these characters.
Do I recommend it? Not really.