Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Gere, Joan Allen, Sarah Roemer, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jason
Alexander, Erick Avari, Robert Capron, Davenia McFadden, Robbie Sublett
RunTime: 1 hr 33 mins
Released By: GV & InnoForm Media
Official Website: http://www.hachithemovie.com/
Opening Day: 21 January 2010
This heartwarming true story is an American adaptation of a Japanese tale about a loyal dog named Hachiko. This very special friend would accompany his master to the train station every day and return each afternoon to greet him after work. Sadly his master departs one day, passes away and never returns to the station. Hachiko faithfully returns to the same spot at the station the very next day, and every day for the next nine years to wait for his beloved master.
During his daily visits, Hachiko touches the lives of many who work near and commute through the town square. He teaches the local people love, compassion and above all unyielding loyalty. Today, a bronze statue of Hachiko sits in his waiting spot outside the Shibuya station in Japan as a permanent reminder of his devotion and love.
Hachiko: A Dog’s Story is Hollywood’s adaptation of Japan’s renowned faithful dog, Hachiko. What makes Hachiko a countrywide sensation in the 1930’s can be attribute to it’s undying loyalty to his owner, a virtue that is consider by most Japanese and Asians to be of utmost importance especially towards family and loved ones.
In this Lasse Hallström’s (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Cider House Rules) directed version, Richard Gere who is the producer as well plays a music professor Parker Wilson who takes in a lost stray which he later on named Hachi after he arrived home at his train station after a job stint. Over a period of time, Wilson forms a strong bond with Hachi, he would accompany Parker to the train station every morning and returns in the evening at the station to greet Parker. Unfortunately, Parker never makes it home one day but Hachi returns every evening hoping to see his beloved owner once again.
There are little changes to the original story and there’s never a feeling that Hollywood is trying to coerce Stephen P. Lindsey's screenplay into adapting to a more American feel with the exception of locations and cast of course. It’s a shame it didn’t receive a theatrical release in the States. Backed by Hallström’s strong direction, "Hachiko: A Dog’s Story" delivers a believable friendship between man and his best friend. Gere is perfect as Parker Wilson, the charming as hell 61 year old actor is at his best portraying the everyday gentleman and family man (remember the remake of Shall We Dance?) and here he is, a picture of enthusiasm as a scene of his character teaching Hachi how to play ‘fetch’ will tell you.
Familiar faces such as Joan Allen (The Bourne Supremacy) who plays Parker’s wife and Sarah Roemer (Disturbia) as the daughter of the Wilsons on the other hand has far less screentime to bring much justification to their roles though the various town folks played by Jason Alexander (Seinfield) as station agent Carl, Erik Avari as the hot-dog seller and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Planet of the Apes), Parker’s best friend contributed to all the warmness of this tale. Despite the well-cast human actors, it’s the various animal actors that truly bring the story alive. Three adult Akitas played the grown-up Hachi while a significantly amount of younglings are cast for the earlier scenes. Certainly a great effort by the filmmakers and trainers.
Though Hallström puts in a restraint effort in milking the tears, do expect a certain amount of tear-jerking moments if you are familiar with how dog movies goes as demonstrated in last year "Marley and Me" or their Japanese counterparts, "10 Promises to My Dog" and "A Tale of Mari and Three Puppies". Polish composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek (Finding Neverland, Unfaithful) deserved a credit for his lush and somewhat melancholic piano cues.
In the movie, Hachi’s perspective is portrayed in black-and-white, I guess it’s the perfect way to paint the character as there’s no such thing as gray area in a dog’s view. Parker’s love for Hachi is as genuine as he has for the rest of his family members and Hachi in return demonstrated his undying devotion to his owner even he somewhat knew of his passing though deep down longed for his return day after day.
If you are looking for a movie that unleashes more turns, surprises and less predictable then "Hachiko: A Dog’s Story" is definitely not your cup of tea. But for dog lovers and those dating or married couples out there, this leisurely-paced movie is going to bask you in a glow of Hallmark-like tenderness and caused a sudden surge in demand for Kleenex in the theatres.
(Hachi is one dog that touches and teaches you in more ways than you can imagine)
Review by Linus Tee