Recently, a friend loaned me a copy of a movie that I had never heard of. "It's about a Dog. Just watch it", I was told. Tonight, the girls and I snuggled in and did exactly that. It was, indeed, a movie about a dog. As it turned out, the movie was about so much more.
In addition to "the dog", the movie stars Richard Gere, Joan Allen and Jason Alexander. All pretty big-name stars, yet I had never heard a word about this movie...not a trailer, not a review - nothing. Surely, it couldn't be much of a movie then, could it?
How wrong I was - what an absolutely wonderful family movie it turned out to be! Based on a true story, the movie opens with an Akita Puppy being shipped on a plane from Japan, presumably to be united with his adoptive family. As often happens with airplane luggage, the poor pup is misrouted and ends up at a train station at the feet of Richard Gere. (LUCKY PUPPY!) After several attempts to locate the pup's intended owner, Gere realizes that perhaps he and the pooch were meant to be together and decides to keep him. He discovers a collar around the dog's neck with a Japanese symbol for the number 8 - Hachiko, or "good fortune" - and this becomes the dog's name (Hachi, for short).
The movie then goes on to follow the story of the dog and his beloved master as Hachi becomes a part of his family. I won't spoil the movie for those of you that have not seen it, let me just say that this was one of the best family movies I have seen in a long time. The performances were understated, yet powerful, and allowed the viewer to become lost in the story as it unfolded. This is not a movie with a big budget, a huge special effects team or endless plot twists. It is, quite simply, a really nice little movie. Should you decide to watch, you will not be disappointed.
What I cannot begin to understand is this: why is it that I had not heard of this movie until now? After a little research on the net, I discovered that the movie premiered at the Seattle Film Festival in 2009 to high critical praise, yet the studio decided not to give the film a theatrical release - shipping it, instead, straight to DVD and relative obscurity among the movie watching public. With the utter crap that is continually rammed down our throats in the mulitplexes (seriously people, Pirhana 3D???), how is it that a little gem like this was swept under the rug and forgotten? It is a shame, really.
It is a story of true love, loyalty and devotion that you will not soon forget. More than an hour after the end credits rolled, I am still thinking about it, hoping to get a chance to watch it again before I have to return the borrowed DVD. It just goes to show that it takes more than a big budget, flashy trailers and A-list stars with huge paycheques to make a good film. All it takes is a little heart, something that is sadly lacking in most of the mindless drivel that Hollywood churns out year after year.
The next rainy afternoon, snuggle up with the kiddies or your honey and give it a chance - you'll be glad you did!