Film Review: A Dog’s Journey

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TITLEA Dog’s Journey

DIRECTOR: Gail Mancuso

SCREENWRITER: W Bruce Cameron, Maya Forbes, Cathryn Michon, Wallace Wolodarsky

STARS: Dennis Quaid, Kathryn Prescott, Josh Gad

RUNTIME: 109 minutes

CINEMATIC RELEASE DATES: Australia (15th August 2019), UK (3rd May 2019), USA (17th May 2019)

HOME ENTERTAINMENT RELEASE DATES: USA (20th August 2019)

CLASSIFICATIONS: Australia (PG), Thailand (G), UK (PG), USA (PG)

REVIEW:

It is a shame that perhaps one of the best films of 2019 may go completely unwatched by many. While few would admit there seems to be an aversion to going and seeing films that are considered ‘light and fluffy’ by many. Well that is they are normally ignored until a day like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day comes along and suddenly going and seeing something like Midsommar with the oldies just doesn’t appeal.

To many A Dog’s Journey would fit nicely into that ‘light and fluffy’ genre of films. But what most would not know until they actually sat down to watch it is this is a film with a great storyline and some true grit. This isn’t just another ‘dog’ story this is a film that explores a family ripped apart about alcoholism, bad parenting and jealousy. It is a film that is probably more comfortable being shelved next to Life As A House on your DVD shelf rather than any Lassie or Benji film.

Like its predecessor, A Dog’s Journey, centres around the relationship between kind-hearted farmer Ethan (Dennis Quaid – Frequency, The Day After Tomorrow) and his dog Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad – Frozen, Pixels). Through different re-generations Bailey finds his way back to Ethan but in this film things work a little differently.

Ethan and his wife Hannah (Marg Helgenberger – Species, Erin Brokovich) are left shattered when their son is killed in a car accident and their struggling daughter-in-law Gloria (Betty Gilpin – Isn’t It Romantic, Glow) decides to take their grand-daughter CJ away from them after a vicious fight. Convinced that Gloria is not going to be able to look after her daughter properly Ethan, in a sad goodbye, tells Bailey that in his next life he is to find CJ (Abby Ryder Fortson – Ant-Man and the Wasp, Togetherness) and to help her out in life. The same also applies for teenage CJ (Kathryn Prescott – Skins, To The Bone) who faces an even tougher life.

Despite the stigma around the film this is certainly not a film that is aimed at an ultra young audience. Guided by a screenplay that has been co-written by the novelist himself W. Bruce Cameron (A Dog’s Way Home, Muffin Top: A Love Story) director Gail Mancuso (Modern Family, 30 Rock) guides her audience through a story of a shattered family and a teen who is forced to grow up a lot earlier than you should have due to the fact that she has had to fend to herself as her mother is seemingly constantly trapped in a spiral of alcoholism and failing relationships with an ever-going stream of men.

To their credit the filmmakers also don’t skirt around the tough issues. They are all shown up there on the screen while the storylines themselves also bring out the best in the young cast members. It also feels like the screenplay better handles the re-generations of Bailey than A Dog’s Purpose as well. Part of the suspense of this film is Bailey trying to seek out CJ each time and during those periods the audience are also left wondering what state CJ will be in when Bailey finally gets back to her.

Audience members beware though watching this film feels like you are being put through an emotional wringer. If you are a dog lover you will find yourself tearing up each time it is time for Bailey to pass away. It’s crazy when you think about because you know that he will return in just a few seconds but each emotional scene in this film is so well-written that you just can’t help the affect that it has on you. The fact that the powerful script also delivers that same emotion in the scenes revolving around the human characters just shows that this is a screen-writing team that were really on the top of their game.

As I mentioned earlier this film also brings out the best in its cast. Dennis Quaid again leads the way with a strong yet heartfelt portrayal of a man everybody would love to have as a Grandfather – Ethan. But he is also well matched by Kathryn Prescott who really announces herself as an actress to watch. Known mainly for her television work in shows like Skins and 24: Legacy Prescott makes the leap to the big screen amazingly well. Her emotional performance here of a young girl going through some of life’s toughest obstacles is sensational, and hopefully we see her cast in more films in the future.

A Dog’s Journey is one of the surprise films of 2019. A film full of pure heart that doesn’t pander to the ‘soft and fluffy’ conform that most would expect from it. A powerful story that has the potential to appeal to more than just the dog lovers out there.

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