In the indie film “Boundaries,” divorced mom Laura (Vera Farmiga) can’t go anywhere without finding a stray animal she’s simply got to take care of. She’s got a house full of special needs dogs and cats that no one else wants, but her 12-year-old son Henry (Lewis MacDougall) is an even bigger handful.
Two crises kick off the film’s road trip story: Misfit Henry has gotten himself expelled after drawing another sexually explicit photo, this time of his principal. And that’s just when Laura’s unreliable father Jack (Christopher Plummer) calls to say he’s been kicked out of his senior living facility for certain illegal activities.
Jack promises to come up with the money so Henry can attend a private school. Laura, who spent years avoiding her father, reluctantly agrees. A comical road trip ensues and of course several of Laura’s most needy dogs come along for the ride. (Read about the real rescue dogs and cats in the film.)
Yes, the dogs are adorable, and there are a lot of colorful characters and funny moments along the way, but this is also an R-rated film that’s hardly family friendly. (Henry’s drawings alone would ensure that.) As written, Henry is a fairly creepy character: When his mom predicts he’ll be into animal rescue like her, he jokes that he’ll be a taxidermist instead. The darker side of Henry’s psyche is never really explored and his explicit drawings are mostly a catalyst to get the plot in gear.
Similarly, the damage Laura suffered from having a neglectful father like Jack feels real, but ultimately, the film settles for an unrealistic happy ending.
The best part of the film (besides the adorable dogs): Farmiga and Plummer’s performances. Farmiga reminds you she’s one of the most versatile and underrated actresses working today. And Plummer, at his most charming, is even better than he was in his Oscar-nominated role in “All the Money in the World.”
Kristen Schaal, Henry Fonda, and Christopher Lloyd, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (from “The Get Down”) also shine in their small roles.
I’m recommending the film on the basis of the cast (both human and canine), but I wish it didn’t soft-soap some of the darker aspects of the story.