In perusing the available DVDs on Netflix, I stumbled across a little known gem: Hachi: A Dog's Tale, starring Richard Gere.
Admittedly, any film featuring an adorable dog (or the adorable Richard Gere), will catch my eye, but you need not be a Richard Gere enthusiast to appreciate this film. You do, however, need to be a dog lover, and more importantly, must possess an inherent understanding and respect for the spiritual bond that exists between humans and canines, without which this film is reduced to just another sweet movie that never made headlines.
Despite grossing over $40 Million dollars overseas, in the United States, Hachi: A Dog's Tale was released straight to DVD. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom (The Cider House Rules, Chocolat, Dear John), Hachi: A Dog's Tale is, at first glance, a simple movie about a man and his dog. But when viewed with sensitivity and thought, the film is far more.
Through the years, Hollywood has given us many formulaic episodes depicting the heroic bond of loyalty between man and his dog, but no film to my knowledge has effectively portrayed the depth of that emotion from a dog's point of view. How can the writer/director know a dog's point of view? Non-dog lovers among you may ask. In his behavior and his very life, Hachiko, the beautiful Akita Inu upon which this film is based, literally told them.
Hachiko (Hachi for short) was born in 1923 on a farm in Japan, and brought to Tokyo by his owner, Professor Ueno of the University of Tokyo. Each day, Hachiko accompanied the Professor to the Shibuya train station to see the Professor off to work, and returned to the station each evening to meet the Professor upon his return. Hachiko became familiar to the commuters and workers at the station; his loyalty and predictability were legendary. Hachi: A Dog's Tale is set in Rhode Island, with Richard Gere portraying a music professor who finds the lost Hachi at the railway station, and reluctantly brings him home to a far more reluctant wife. Though this portion of the plot is hackneyed and trivial by today's standards, Hachi: A Dog's Tale instantly tugs at your heart-strings and invites you to look look, and to feel, deeper.
Hachi: A Dog's Tale is a real film. There are no acts of violence. Nothing blows up. There is no explicit language or sexual situations. The movie is a beautifully filmed slice of true life that will touch even the most hard-hearted viewer. This is a film with meaning, one that explores the definition of “hero” and quietly, yet ever so effectively, describes the inexplicable bond between a human being and his dog. I can reveal no more of Hachi: A Dog's Tale's plot without ruining the beautiful experience for possible viewers, but trust me, this is a movie with true, palpable spirit.
Why, then, have you never heard of it? Why, then, did it skip theatrical release? Perhaps its producers knew the movie's G rating would almost certainly kill it at the American box office, or perhaps the film got lost in the Marley & Me hoopla. But if you love and respect dogs, don't miss Hachi: A Dog's Tale. Be forewarned, however, Hachi: A Dog's Tale is an emotional experience (have a box of tissues handy!) but well worth it.