How to Steal A Dog – Review

How to Steal A Dog is a Korean film based on the American book of the same title by Barbara O’Connor. The book is based in a small North Carolina town. While the film occurs in a busy metropolitan area on Jeju Island, South Korea.

How to Steal A Dog at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival

Family Outing Korean Film, How to Steal A Dog. Image courtesy of the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival

How to Steal A Dog – Review

This film is recommended for ages 8+. I think you can go a little younger if your children speak Korean or you don’t mind reading out loud for over an hour. The film is heavy on dialogue and requires strong reading skills to follow the subtitles.

I brought my 7-year-old and 11-year-old children. My 7-year-old pulled out some toys to play with early and started asking if the film was almost over about midway through. When asked, he said he followed the plot, but I’m certain he didn’t get all the subtle details. Interestingly, he gave it a 5 out of 5 when we voted. Maybe he just needed to play with the toys while watching to help him focus on the story without the benefit of understanding the language. 

I’m not sure how old the children’s characters were supposed to be in this film, but the actors were 8 and 6 at the time of filming. Younger children would definitely identify with the 6-year-old Ji-Suk, who is constantly discounted but always has something intelligent to add to a conversation or a plot. If this film is dubbed into English, I would lower my age recommendations to 5 or 6. It is exciting and fun; and the bad guys are not scary. Characters make bad choices, but most of them learn from their mistakes and grow from the experiences.

For adults and children who can keep up, this is a delightful film. One of my favorite things about watching foreign films with children is that they get to see just how much we are all alike, while at the same time having a chance to get to know another culture. The subtle differences in our lifestyles are overshadowed by universal themes. This film covers tough topics — homelessness, family love, shame and redemption, and friendship — while remaining a child-friendly, urban adventure.

October 2017 Update: This film is now on Netflix with subtitles, I plan to watch it for a movie night, but will start a little later with the expectation that the smaller ones will fall asleep.

This film was originally reviewed as part of the Childish Films section of the 2017 Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival. FFTC was provided with tickets to facilitate our review. Find more movie reviews from past film festivals here

How to Steal A Dog – Details and Viewing Info
Language: Korean with English Subtitles
Runtime: 109 minutes
You can view the trailer for the film below.


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