The Power of the Dog

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

It’s award season for movies. On February 8 nominees are announced for the 94th Academy Awards. In preparation, I’m watching the top picked films that may receive the honor of a nomination.

One film, The Power of the Dog, is a stand out already. This Netflix film has garnered a staggering 262 nominations and 183 wins, in a variety of movie categories and award platforms. Those stats placed it high on my “must watch” list.

Check out my movie review and my thoughts about this slow burn drama. No spoilers included.

The Power of the Dog title meme

The Power of the Dog Cast

This western…and I use that term loosely…stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Durnst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Jane Campion wrote the screenplay, based on the novel by Thomas Savage. She directed the film as well.

The Power of the Dog carries an R rating, for sexuality, smoking and mild alcohol use and language. It has a run time of 2 hours and 6 minutes.

Two Brothers

In 1925 Montana, brothers Phil (Cumberbatch) and George (Plemons) carry on managing the ranch, after their elderly parents return to the east to live.

The wealthy brothers share the austere family home, little changed since their childhood, which suits Phil fine. As the elder brother, Phil runs the ranch, inspiring fear and awe in the hired cowboys, and controls his younger sibling. He is rugged and unkept, bathing infrequently in the river, with a severe type of charisma that both attracts and repels others.

While he seldom shows appreciation for anyone else, Phil idolizes the mentor from his youth, Bronco Henry. Not a day goes by on the ranch that Phil doesn’t share a larger than life story about the now dead cowboy.

George lives in his brother’s shadow. Thoughtful, quiet and more refined, he allows Phil to make all of the decisions. And when his brother treats others cruelly, George surreptitiously does his best to smooth over the situation.

That’s how George meets his wife.

The Power of the Dog phil
The Power of the Dog – Phil. played by Benedict Cumberbatch
The Power of the Dog george
The Power of the Dog – George, played by Jesse Plemons

A Mother and Her Son

After driving cattle to a nearby town, Phil, George and the cowboys dine at the local inn. Rose (Durst), widowed with a teenage son, prepares the meal. Peter (Smit-McPhee), a gentle, artistic young man, helps his mother out by serving the rowdy guests. Phil’s taunts and jeers, egged on by the cowboys, brings tears from Rose and Peter.

George stays behind, after dinner, to comfort Rose. That quiet show of tenderness leads to frequent visits, by George, to see Rose. By the time Phil realizes where George is going, and seeks to dissuade him from pursuing Rose, it’s too late. George and Rose married, without Phil’s knowledge or consent.

The somewhat downcast Peter goes away to school, to study medicine. Rose joins her new husband and brother-in-law at the ranch.

The Power of the Dog rose
The Power of the Dog – Rose, played by Kirsten Dunst
The Power of the Dog peter
The Power of the Dog – Peter, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee

A Hellish Summer

Phil strongly dislikes Rose and what he sees as a disruption to his routines and his life. He rebuffs all of her attempts to merge into his family, making her feel unwelcome and unworthy. Rose’s despondency deepens, made worse when her son Peter arrives at the ranch during summer break.

Phil’s taunting now focuses primarily on Peter, who is unaccustomed to ranch life. The young man spends most of his time in his room, studying medical books and performing dissections on field rabbits that he catches.

And then, unexpectedly, Phil softens toward Peter, teaching the boy how to ride a horse and work on the ranch. He shares Bronco Henry tales, hand plaits a rawhide rope for Peter and for the first time, opens up about his own youth.

The sudden friendship between Phil and Peter does nothing to soothe Rose. In fact, she seeks ways to hurt the man she so despises. Is Phil truly changing and becoming more vulnerable? Or is something else going on?

The Power of the Dog love
The Power of the Dog – is love enough?

My Thoughts About The Power of the Dog

I’m not a huge fan of westerns. However, to my delight, The Power of the Dog is less a western than a subtly played out drama. While there are cowboys and a ranch and incredible vistas, the story focuses on the complicated relationships between Phil and George, Phil and Rose and Phil and Peter.

Phil is the central character and he is one angry, manipulative man. And yet, as much as I disliked his cruelty, I first pitied him and then felt unexpected compassion for all that he kept painfully hidden in his life.

There’s a youngness to Phil that hints that he became trapped in his youth…and never grew beyond it. As adults, he and George still share a room, sleeping in twin beds, but sharing space as they did in their childhood. He dislikes bathing, makes up his own rules, resorts to name calling and taunting and rejects outsiders. Rather than share who he is or what he has, he chooses to destroy so others can’t have it.

All four primary actors give outstanding performances. Benedict Cumberbatch should pick up a Best Actor Oscar.

And Jane Campion excellently builds out this complex story. She reveals, layer by layer, until the end brings a surprising twist that immediately made me think, “Now I need to watch it all again.” That’s the power of this film. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I’ll watch the Oscars, fully expecting this movie to pick up multiple awards. Have you seen The Power of the Dog? What did you think?

The Power of the Dog ranch


Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to, all at no extra cost to you.



Surrender 13: Sherlock Holmes The Abominable Bride

Spoiler free post. 

Not only do Dayan and I enjoy watching BBC’s Doctor Who together, we love another of their series, Sherlock Holmes. This incredibly popular incarnation of one of literature’s greatest detectives is the creation of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. Moffat is currently the show runner for Doctor Who as well. 

Which perhaps explains, at least partially, why there have only been nine 90 minute episodes of Sherlock Holmes in the past six years. Moffat has been the primary story writer for Doctor Who, which produces 13 episodes a season. Moffat is a busy man! And the primary actors for Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, are just as busy, being in demand for movies such as The Hobbit Trilogy and Dr. Strange. 

Fans of Sherlock Holmes appreciate the quirky show’s brilliance enough that they’ve resigned themselves to the long wait between seasons, but just barely. One can appreciate repeat viewings of the existing feature length episodes, however anticipation and excitement has been high since the announcement of a holiday special, titled The Abominable Bride. Moffat promised something familiar yet different. Dayan and I, along with other family members who love Sherlock, couldn’t wait! 


Sherlock Holmes: The Abominable Bride stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs, Rupert Graves, Mark Gatiss, Andrew Scott, Natosha O’Keefe and Amanda Abbington. It was directed by Douglas McKinnon and written by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, based upon the works of Arthur Conan Doyle. The crime/drama/mystery has a run time of 90 minutes and carries a TV-14 rating, for mild violence and adult themes. The show premiered in the US on January 1.

The episode begins with a brief recap of the previous three seasons, and then flashes the word Alternatively…before launching into the new story, set in 1890’s London. Garbed in Victorian clothing, all the familiar characters are present: Sherlock Holmes (Cumberbatch), Dr. John Watson (Freeman), Mary Watson (Abbington), Mycroft Holmes (Gatiss), Mrs. Hudson (Stubbs), Inspector Lestrade (Graves) and Moriarty (Scott).  Holmes and Watson take the mysterious case of a deceased bride (O’Keefe), who after shooting herself, appears later to shoot and kill her husband. Other men in London meet the same fate, apparent victims of a ghost bride. 

Holmes, who scoffs at the possibility of a ghost killer, and Watson, who is much more open to that possibility, seek to solve the mystery and prevent more murders. We are taken on a wild journey through Victorian London. As the episode continues, we realize there is a much deeper, and much more mysterious, journey unfolding at the same time. 

Dayan and I loved this Sherlock romp. And we had to wait to watch it, allowing the flow of life to work out the right time for us. We both missed the January 1 showing on PBS Masterpiece Theater. Fathom Events released the show as a feature at movie theaters a few days later, however, confident we would catch it on television, we didn’t make the drive to the nearest sponsoring theater in Tulsa. Dayan intended to record Sherlock when it was rebroadcast Sunday evening, which left me free to watch the Golden Globe Awards that night. We planned to get together today and watch the episode, but Dayan didn’t get the show recorded. Not to worry! We both surrendered on this one. And yesterday, in my Facebook newsfeed, was a notice from PBS that the full episode could be watched for free via their website. Dayan used his technology skills to pull that site up on their large screen tv, and we were set to go. 

It was wonderful to see the cast together again. As always, the acting was superb and the cinematography gorgeous with the perfect musical score accompaniment. And the story, well that was pure Moffat genius. As Whovians, we are very familiar with Moffat’s writing style and this story, with its many twists, turns and connections, was Steven at his finest. Sprinkled throughout the episode were humorous moments, ahas and key references to past episodes, which created a fun viewing experience. 


As we watched, we kept up a running banter of speculations about where the story was headed, and we were basically spot on. Dayan made a couple of excellent observations, based on his knowledge of Moffat, Sherlock and Doctor Who, that proved to be true. 

After the delightful conclusion, my grandson and I spent time discussing the intricacies of the  episode and how it will tie in to the fourth season, due to begin filming this spring. Alas, we will have to wait until 2017 for the next episodes to air, but it will be worth the wait. The Abominable Bride helped to satisfy our Sherlock craving slightly, while at the same time, creating even greater anticipation. That, to me, is the hallmark of a great show. 


Journey 149: BBC’s Sherlock

sherlock season one poster

I’ve been helping out one of my daughters, and her family, while they are on vacation, by checking in on her dogs. They are great pups, and easy to care for. I feed them in the morning and let the small dogs out a couple of times during the day for bathroom breaks.  I know they are missing their humans, so I am spending the evenings with them, keeping them company.

They are happy, I get puppy kisses and snuggles….and….I get to watch Netflix. I promised my grandson I would NOT watch Doctor Who without him. So I selected the BBC series Sherlock to watch…all three seasons. I have seen a few of the episodes, but I’ve missed some and lost continuity. After letting the dogs romp in the backyard, and petting and loving on the outside dog, the little ones and I settle on the couch to enjoy this quirky, modern day adaptation of Sherlock.

Sherlock Beatrice


Sherlock, which premiered in 2010, stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Rupert Graves, Una Stubbs, Mark Gatiss and Andrew Scott. The show was created by Mark Gatiss (who has a reoccurring role in the series) and Steven Moffat (who is also the creator of Doctor Who), based on the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The series is unrated and each episode has a run time of 1 hour and 30 minutes.

The tagline for this new series is “The world’s favorite detective has emerged from the fog…this is Sherlock for a new generation.” This modernized retelling brings the duo of eccentric Sherlock Holmes (Cumberbatch), consulting detective, and Dr. John Watson (Freeman), returning veteran of the Afghanistan war, to 21st century London. In this first season they meet and become flat mates, residing at 221B Baker Street. Their feisty landlady, Mrs. Hudson (Stubbs), keeps an eye on them and serves as occasional housekeeper and cook.

sherlock holmes and watson

The pair help solve crimes in the streets of London, assisting Inspector Lestrade (Graves) with the New Scotland Yard. The first episode. “A Study in Pink” centers around the growing friendship between Holmes and Watson as they establish how to work together. A cabbie turned serial killer gives them their first case to solve as a team. Solve it they do. This initial episode introduces an arch enemy for Holmes. He remains unseen, with only his name given: Moriarty.

Episode two, “The Blind Banker” has the pair working to uncover a Chinese smuggling ring, with ties again to Moriarty. Holmes’ brother, Mycroft (Gatiss) is introduced. And episode three, “The Great Game”, and the final episode for season one, involves Sherlock solving a series of puzzles. There is a time limit for each and should he fail to decipher the puzzle in time, an innocent person, burdened with explosives, will die. At the end of this episode, Holmes and Watson at last meet Moriarty (Scott). The season ends with a cliff hanger.

sherlock the great game

I thoroughly enjoyed this series. The freshening of the story means updated use of technology, such as computers, cell phones and apps, and current world situations. As Holmes is practicing deduction, his thought processes are shared on the screen, so we can watch his mind at work. The characters remain familiar. Holmes is trying to kick drug and smoking addictions, plays the violin when he’s moody, is brilliant yet gets bored easily, rarely eats, and most definitely dances to music only he can hear.

Watson is endearing. He comes home from the war with a psychosomatic injury that quickly disappears as he becomes involved in crime solving. His deduction skills are not nearly as developed as Holmes’ are, however, he’s attentive, kind toward people, and balances Holmes with his earthy, practical nature.

Sherlock Duke


I love these actors, and it is fun to see them paired in Sherlock. They last worked together in The Hobbit trilogy, with Freeman playing Bilbo, the Hobbit who goes on an incredible adventure, while Cumberbatch voices the fire-breathing dragon Smaug. Cumberbatch’s voice as Smaug is different enough that I don’t get too caught by hearing him as Sherlock. However, it took me well into the second episode before I could separate Bilbo from Dr. Watson. Freeman’s wonderfully expressive face and distinctive voice took me back to the Hobbit…over and over again. I appreciate how much of themselves actors bring to their roles. That smile, that pursing of the lips and tilting of the head are Martin Freeman characteristics, not just Bilbo gestures and expressions. I enjoyed him immensely, and by the end of episode two, Freeman was Dr. John Watson.

Speaking of Middle-Earth, I cracked up over a character in episode three named The Golem. There was even a scene with the silhouette of The Golem on a wall, in a crouched position that was intended, I’m sure, to bring an entirely different Gollum to mind. It was clever…and brilliant…and hugely amusing to me as a Lord of the Rings/Hobbit fan.

I am hooked now on Sherlock, and grateful for the opportunity to catch up on this excellent series. The pups seem to enjoy it too….as long as I don’t move around too much and disturb their slumbers. Tomorrow evening…season two, episodes one and two. The game is on!

Sherlock Agnes