Hachi: A Dog's Tale
Review by Jack Foley
LASSE Hallstrom’s second venture with Richard Gere following The Hoax is inspired by the true story of a loyal dog that has since entered Japanese folklore.
At best, it’s a touching short story that’s been hopelessly extended to an overlong movie that’s predictably tear-jerking in the process.
When a loveable Akita puppy is found wondering alone at an American train station, kindly professor Parker (Gere) takes it home and eventually persuades his wife (Joan Allen) to let him keep it.
As a result, man and dog develop a strong bond that lasts for years, so much so that Hachi – as he becomes named – accompanies his owner to and from the station every day and becomes a regular part of the community.
When the professor dies suddenly, however, Hachi continues to await Parker’s return at the station every day for the next 10 years.
The heartbreaking true story that inspired this movie took place in 1930s Japan and has since led to a blockbuster film, two children’s books and three bronze statues in that country.
It’s little wonder, therefore, that Hollywood has seen fit to cash in. But while Hachi isn’t without touching moments, and has something worthwile to say about commitment and friendship, it struggles to justify a whole movie.
Indeed, nothing much happens for large parts of the film, as Hachi and Parker bond, save for the odd comic moment involving skunk spray or whether or not Hachi will ever fetch Parker’s ball.
It’s arguably to the film’s detriment that a star the size of Gere has been cast, as the main point of the film – as much as the tale of friendship that underpins it – is the tackling of grief that follows the main tragedy.
As such, we’re forced to wait for the tragedy to unfold and aren’t afforded as much time to grapple with its main themes as, perhaps, the story really merits.
Hallstrom directs with an assured touch and draws poignant performances from everyone concerned. But even he can’t compensate for the film’s lack of pace during its drawn out middle section.
He does, however, refrain from making things too sentimental and just about earns – rather than forces – your tears.
That said, this remains a film for the most ardent dog lovers only.
Running time: 93mins
UK DVD and Blu-ray Release: July 5, 2010