I didn’t understand Sony’s decision to forego this film’s theatrical release in the US after it was shown at the
Seattle Film Festival last year. That was until I watched it on the big screen a week ago and I saw that the film just doesn’t have a lot to offer.
This film has all the ingredients to become a box office, great actors like Richard Gere and Sarah Roemer, a good director Lasse Hallström and it features lovable/cute dogs.This film is actually a remake of a Japanese film Hachikô monogatari from 1987 which is based on the true story of Hachikō, the most loyal dog in history.
I watched this film expecting to be moved a lot because I already knew about the Japanese dog and I felt that a movie about him would have a really high TPM (tears per minute) stat. But at the end of the day I was just kinda bored, its roughly 90 minutes long but it already felt like too much time to tell such an incredible yet simple story. Incredible in terms of the bond between the dog and his master but simple in the sense that theres not much else that the movie offers.
The Wilson family wasn’t interesting, even though Sarah Roemer and Richard Gere had pretty good chemistry. But the real chemistry was between Hachi and Gere’s character, their relationship was properly showcased throughout the film. But sometimes I felt uncomfortable like when the scene implied that the dog got jealous when Richard Gere and his wife actually spent some quality time together. So the main relationship was established pretty well but there wasn’t enough character development for the supporting cast thats why I was never really cared for the other characters other than the dog and his master, it just felt that they had no purpose other than to populate the town. For instance, we never understood why the wife hated having pets so much, it was hinted that they had a pet before but that was it. The town setting fit well with the story and the people near the train station were numerous enough to make the location more interesting but really only two people had a purpose. The train station guy and the hotdog guy whose interaction with Hachi was more than just saying “oh hi Hachi” or “how did you get here?!”.
The film is cute and funny at times as expected when you have such a lovable animal as a main character in a film. It was also a nice touch to switch to dog vision from time to time so that we can see how the world looks like from Hachi’s eyes.
The music for this film by Jan A. P. Kaczmarek has such a great feel to it and its always timed perfectly. It’s probably the only notable thing in this film other than the core story and the performances of the dogs. Everything else falls pretty flat and that includes most of the emotional scenes.
The most powerful scenes of the movie involves Hachi going back to the train station patiently awaiting his master to return. And it was handled well especially after Wilson’s untimely demised, where they showed the seasons changing in the background. I was pleased that they didn’t put text showing months or years passing by, they actually assumed that the audience would be smart enough to figure it out.
But thats also my main complaint for this film, after the first train wait which happens 30 minutes into the film, theres really just more of the same after that. Theres a little dog-fetching on the side and a funny scene with a skunk but mostly its just him going back to the train station day after day. Which is amazing in real life but quite boring to watch over and over in a film. But the most moving scene in my opinion came near the end of the film when they showed gritty Hachi walking slowly 10 years after the death of his master and still waiting for him daily at the train station.
I’m not complaining that the film feels too grounded, I can actually appreciate the fact that it doesn’t sensationalize the story but they could’ve added a few more interesting things to the story that would still make it feel real.
I can’t recommend people to seek this film out in theathres unless your a dog-lover but I will say that its a good DVD rental and a really nice film for your whole family to watch together in the living room.