Hachi : A Dog’s Tale
Stage 6 Film
Starring : Richard Gere, Joan Allen, Jason Alexander, Sarah Roemer, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
Directed by : Lasse Hallström
Based on a true story, this simple story is translated for its modern viewers. The bones of the tale and its heartfelt emotions remain the same.
Hachi is a small Akita puppy when he is found wandering a suburban New England train station by Parker Wilson, a talented music professor who regularly travels to New York city. The professor falls in love with Hachi and, and a brief struggle convincing his wife, the puppy and professor live happily ever after. Several years pass with all the small and large events that normally take place. Hachi develops a habit of accompanying the professor to the train station each morning, returning home, and then meeting the evening train to welcome his master home. Hachi continues this routine even after the professor dies.
This film is deceptively simple. It doesn’t contain much dialogue nor dramatic conflict. However, it does contain a lot of emotion. Certain parts of the movie had me crying. I think it moved me so much in part because I’m an animal lover, but mostly because my father passed away too. Like the fictional professor, my dad was a warm and friendly man who had a kind word for most everyone. He too died before his time, a young man at 56. I guess its fitting that I watched this movie today because the anniversary of Dad’s death is coming up — April 2.
I did have some complaints of the film despite my overall enjoyment. The human actors’ performances felt uneven. The train station manager, played by Jason Alexander, felt forced and overly hearty. With his level of fakeness, I kept expecting some nefarious plot twist with him as the villain. Also, the professor’s wife, played by Joan Allen, was too restrained. Although her warmth and love for the professor and eventually for Hachi shown through, it was inconsistent and confusing when compared to how to acted the rest of the time. Additionally, all the actors voiced their lines so quietly and/or mumbled them that it was hard to understand what they were saying.
The dogs who played Hachi were very cute. Akitas are a Japanese breed. In fact, the true story upon which this movie was based took place in Japan in the 1920s. In real life, as in the movie, an Akita named Hachi welcomed its owner home at the train station every day. The dog continued its vigil at the Shibuya train station even after its owner died. The Akita breed is ancient and noble. They are notoriously stubborn and resisted training for the movie. Perhaps that and the fact that multiple dogs were used that made me feel as though the level and intensity of emotion in scenes with Hachi were lacking at times. I had hoped for a little more.
Finally, the directing was interesting. Long views and establishing shots effectively set the movie in its time and place, but also slowed the pace of the movie and distanced the viewer from the action. The use of black and white shots to signify the dog’s point of view was unexpected, nor was it used enough to be effective. Ultimately, its use just took me out of the story and made me thing about the director’s flourishes.
I did like this movie, and would recommend it to friends and families. It doesn’t contain violence nor profanity. Sexuality is merely hinted at, and only between a married couple. If young children watch it, be prepared to discuss death.