For weeks now, I have hesitated to see this movie, not because I didn’t think it would be good, but because I knew it would be very good and I wouldn’t be able to get through it for crying. So I waited, read the reviews, and learned about the plot. Finally, I thought I was ready so I asked Rory to get it On Demand so I wouldn’t have to run out of the theater if I couldn’t take it.
What did I find?–this is a wonderful film and fine for children too–although the film is rated for ages 10 and up and they should be mature. The producers chose Lasse Halstrom, one of my favorite directors and yours too if you liked Chocolat, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Shipping News and other great films. The cinematography is gorgeous, replete with shots of beautiful farmland and Bailey bounding through the wheat. (elle.com)
Here’s the thing: If you have ever loved a dog, or been loved by a dog, or any other animal in your life, you will find meaning in this. As plot twists have already been published, I won’t worry about spoilers–just to tell you that the ending is triumphant and joyous.
Briefly, Bailey is a canine presence who appears throughout the film in various incarnations, but who is always Bailey. He, like so many of us, is trying to understand why he is here and what his purpose is. Through his many dog lives (we see five), (lifewithdogs.com) he finds and returns love, saves his families and has a lot of fun. In fact, at one point, he asks if maybe his purpose in life is to just have fun. We have lots of fun with him and see it through his eyes.(aggressivecomix.com)
In addition to showing us how hilarious a dog may find his humans, the film explores some difficult themes, including alcoholism, the mistreatment of animals, and some general nastiness in people–but, this is life–however, prepare your child. Hallstrom also deals with the end of life and yes, you will cry, but you will also love it because it is clear that up to the end, Bailey loves his family and feels their love for him. He is also happy to hear that as Ellie, she/he has done “good work.”
In going through this with Bailey, we feel all the pain of our lost pets and even our lost loved humans. But it is cathartic and beautiful and when Bailey as Tino the Corgi, (pinteres.com) says “I’m ready,” you know that for your dog, there’s a time when he is not having fun any more and it is time for him to go. Difficult as it is for you, it’s best for him.
In reading the many comments about the film and the book, people describe how they have been able to deal with their grief, guilt and loss over their pets. Many have even said they have been able to take on another pet after never thinking they could. I know that I rejoice in seeing in my current doggy friends traces of all my past ones. The beloved book by W. Bruce Cameron is also used in the classroom with a guide and it seems to me a most delicate and understanding way to deal with death.
(etonline.com) Bailey never fears death–because he loves life so much–he only feels bad about the sadness of those he leaves behind. I have gone through the deaths of many beloved dogs and a cat or two so I know this grief. I saw the movie twice through because I felt I had to master it and I believe it has helped me remember my dear lost ones with a greater insight into the joys and happiness in their lives. Bailey feels he has found his purpose at the end and I think you will, too.
By the way, if you are looking for an animal companion who is always ready to play ball, go to the park, wrestle, cuddle, just sit with you or, as in our case, enrich the life of another older pet, you can’t do better than to look at Petfinders.org or the ASPCA.org/adopt near you to find the friend of your choice.
NB There has been some talk of one of the dog actors being forced to go through a scene that frightened him. The final result seems to be that the dog was spooked by being asked to go into the water on the left side instead of the right where he rehearsed but was not afraid of going into the water. You can read more about this at Snopes if you wish http://www.snopes.com/2017/01/18/animal-abuse-alleged-set-dogs-purpose/