Hachi: A Dog’s Tale [2009]

Directed by: Lasse Hallström
Written by: Stephen P. Lindsey
Cast: Richard Gere, Joan Allen, Jason Alexander, Sarah Roemer

2009 drama is a 21st century look into the story presented 22 years earlier in the Japanese film Hachikō Monogatari, in turn based on the astonishing true story that took place in that country in the 20’s. Hallstrom and Lindsey’s approach to the material is a little heavy-handed, but that doesn’t make it any less moving. It often falls prey to dangerous, Hallmark-y trappings, but it’s, on the whole, a very touching portrait of undying love and devotion.

The humans in Hachi do their jobs well, but it’s the titular Akita, portrayed by Chico, Layla and Forrest, who carries all the weight of this movie. Animals like these really make you wonder if there are species other than us who are able to, you know, act. These marvelous dogs deserve to be named alongside other spectacular canine performers like the six Brussels Griffons  that played “Verdell” in As Good as It Gets or “Cosmo” from last year’s Beginners. One of the last scenes, featuring an ailing Hachi and Joan Allen’s Cate, is one of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ve ever watched.

Also of note is Jan A.P. Kaczmarek’s  score. Despite the cheese, there’s some serious quality in this little film, so it’s surprising it went straight to home media; it didn’t deserve that. A must for dog lovers.