It may not be a masterpiece, but Hachiko: A Dog's Story is an above-average family movie that could easily break a dog-lover's heart.
Adapted from a Japanese film released around 20 years ago, the movie is directed by Swedish filmmaker Lasse Hallstrom. It tells the story of Parker Wilson (Richard Gere), a professor, and his Akita dog Hachi.
The dog would wait for Parker's return from work every day at the train station. But when the professor suddenly dies, Hachi continues to wait for his master for 10 years.
The plot is simple and straightforward, but the realistic characters and genuine emotions are gripping. Hallstrom handles the tear-jerking moments with class and restraint, avoiding the usual mawkish pitfalls associated with canine dramas. And the score by Oscar-winning composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek makes for a brilliant soundtrack.
Although Gere's acting hasn't evolved much, the Akita somehow brings out the best of this ageing heartthrob, who delivers a solid performance that will pull the heartstrings of his female fans. Joan Allen, who plays Parker's wife, has a charm which could elevate any movie.
There is something irresistible about canine dramas, and it's a shame that the movie went straight to DVD in the US. Hachiko: A Dog's Story may lack the wow factor, but it is still a sweet, old-fashioned charmer.