“Good Boy” is a Horrifying Reminder That Woman’s Best Friend is Consent

Online dating can be difficult. After wading through never-ending profiles, carefully crafting introductory messages, and suffering through those awkward first date conversations, you finally meet a nice guy. He’s tall, handsome, and a little bit shy. He lives alone in a luxurious house and cooks you breakfast just the way you like it. You’ve somehow managed to find a diamond in the rough–the total package. There’s just one small problem. He lives with a man who wears a dog costume and pretends to be a pet day in and day out. Why is it always something? Viljar Bøe’s stunning film Good Boy presents this nightmarish scenario and asks us to question the limits of a healthy relationship. What would we do if our new partner tested our personal boundaries? Part rom-com, part quirky drama, part torture porn, Good Boy pulls us into a bright and unsettling world of ethical depravity, twisting and turning the knife well past the limits of what we think we can endure. 

Sigrid (Katrine Lovise Øpstad Fredriksen) is a working college student looking for love–or at least an exciting hookup–on Tinder. After a few online encounters, she asks out Christian (Gard Løkke), a shy, but handsome man who invites her back to his place. The date goes well until the next morning when Sigrid meets Frank (Nicolai Narvesen Lied). She awakens from a night of bliss to see a man in a gray dog suit staring at her from the corner of Christian’s bedroom. Sigrid does what most of us would do when presented with this bizarre scenario: she runs. It’s only later when she finds out that Christian has inherited a multi-million dollar fortune from his late parents that she reconsiders. They begin a whirlwind courtship and it seems that she may have found the man of her dreams. It’s not until a weekend trip to Christian’s remote cabin goes disastrously wrong that Sigrid realizes she’s stumbled into a situation much darker than she imagined.

Set in the Norwegian summer, this film unfolds entirely in daylight, casting a reassuring light on the horrors to come. The crisp, clean lines of Christian’s persona, his spacious home, and an abundance of natural light lend an air of safety to the unsettling story. After all, no one is hiding in the shadows. It’s only Christian’s whispered warning, “do not treat him like a human” that hints at a darker truth. Bøe masterfully builds tension, playing with the familiar beats of erotic thrillers and Dateline documentaries as this weekend trip turns into the date from hell. Once we realize Sigrid is in too deep, the narrative explodes into a nightmare of torture and sadism that makes us wonder how we ever could have believed any of this was ok. 

Bøe’s precariously balanced film would easily collapse without strong performances from his three leads. As Sigrid, Fredriksen provides the perfect conduit for the audience to slowly digest Christian’s unconventional “pet.” We find ourselves screaming at her to mind the red flags as they pop up, knowing that we might fall into the very same traps. Løkke is mesmerizing as the shy and reclusive billionaire looking for a woman to accept him as he is. This knife’s edge depiction of the perfect man rapidly spirals into shocking levels of depravity as the true nature of his relationship with Frank becomes clear. However, it’s Lied’s performance as the uncanny “pet” that keeps this bizarre story from falling into ridiculousness. His carefully calibrated canine impression allows us to suspend our disbelief and hope that Sigrid and Christian might be able to make their relationship work. Lied’s reserved mannerisms feel dog-like, but never over-the-top and always carry a hint of menace. He’s aided by a chillingly simple costume with wiry fur and a spotted white mask that occasionally reveals a glimpse of the human face beneath. The secret ingredient in his shocking story, Lied finds the perfectly unnerving balance between innocent puppy play and a dangerous wolf in disguise. 

The ostensibly humorous premise of Good Boy poses interesting questions about kink and consent. An idyllic opening scene introduces us to Christian’s life as he methodically cooks dinner for Frank then lovingly cleans his teeth before bed. The next day, this “shaggy dog” playfully paws at Christian to wake him up and they enjoy a sunny day together in the park. Describing the origins of their companionship to Sigrid, Christian hints at Frank’s traumatic past and Bøe asks us to consider whether this arrangement could possibly be healthy. If Frank identifies as a dog, isn’t Christian providing a kindness by allowing him to live out his fantasy without judgment? Isn’t Christian sacrificing his own happiness by sharing his life with Frank, knowing it might drive away romantic partners? Perhaps Sigrid, Christian, and Frank can create a happy family unit together. And if so, would Sigrid be a bad person if she’s ultimately unable to accept this unconventional lifestyle? 

Bøe also uses the story to ponder questions of consent, wealth, and power. Sigrid initially rejects Christian upon first meeting Frank. She doesn’t even want to hear an explanation about their living arrangements. However, she changes her mind when she learns about Christian’s inheritance. Up until this moment, Sigrid has been in control. She asks him out. She shows up late to their date, wearing gym clothes no less. She asks him to drop everything and take her home. Sigrid directs their courtship until she realizes that Christian holds the keys to a larger system of power. Her roommate Aurora (Amalie Willoch Njaastad) hints that if they were to marry, Sigrid could abandon her flagging studies and live the leisurely life of the ultra-rich. She begins to treat Frank as a pet too and envisions herself joining Christian in this unsettling delusion. Having ventured past the point of no return, Sigrid unfortunately realizes that she’s already given up what little power she had. 

There are a few flies in this disquieting ointment. We get a glimpse of Sigrid’s life before Christian, but Aurora simply vanishes from the story after her roommate leaves for their trip. With the proliferation of true crime programming flooding us with stories of online predators, it’s difficult to believe that a savvy student would go to a secluded cabin with a man she just met, let alone allow him to take her phone away. She also makes a couple of crucial mistakes that will likely leave seasoned horror fans screaming at their screens. But Bøe chooses to keep the focus on this bizarre relationship, abandoning the outside world and presenting us with a scenario so horrific that it blots out anything else. 
Good Boy ultimately serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of ignoring our intuition. Would we see the good boys of the world coming or would we make the same mistakes? The final scene delivers a knock-out punch so sick and upsetting that it lingers long after the credits roll. We find ourselves wondering about what might have been and looking for ways to escape a fate worse than death. Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of this horrific film is the ease with which the invisible bonds of control slip into place and how strong they ultimately turn out to be.

Jenn Adams is a writer, podcaster, and film critic from Nashville, TN. Find her social media nonsense @jennferatu.