review for Lawn Dogs on AllMovie

Lawn Dogs (1997)
by Tom Wiener review

A ten-year-old girl bonding with a psychologically damaged veteran who lives in a trailer in the woods may sound like a recipe for something sappy, or, worse, something kinky. Naomi Wallace's script and John Duigan's direction steer clear of those extremes. Devon Stockard, played by the remarkable Mischa Barton, is well aware that her striving, glad-handing parents (Chris McDonald and Kathleen Quinlan) are also hypocrites of the first order. Arriving in a new neighborhood, a suburban enclave filled with big sterile homes and perfectly manicured lawns devoid of any evidence of children, Devon retreats into her own world -- an early scene of her crawling out onto the roof to sing to the night sky sums that up neatly. Not surprisingly, Devon fastens onto the scruffy Trent Burns, sensing an adult who is both kind and honest. Sam Rockwell plays Trent, who is a darker version of The Kid character he played in Box of Moonlight; both are trailer-dwelling loners, but Trent is more in fearful retreat from the world than in defiant rebellion against it. The film allows these two souls to find some pleasure and solace in each other's company, even as we sense that their relationship can't last, once her parents learn of it.