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2009 Heartland Film FestivalRating: 4 of 5 yaps

Hachi: A Dog’s Tale

Hachi - inside
“Hachi: A Dog’s Tale” is unapologetically a tear-jerker. You might resent being emotionally manipulated by this film, but I challenge even the most hard-hearted moviegoer not to spill some saltwater while watching it.

“Hachi” is based on a true story that is very famous in Japan of an Akita dog that waited every day at the train station for its master — even years after the man had passed away.

There’s an iconic statue of Hachiko at the station, and a Japanese film version came out in 1987, but the story remains largely unknown in the States.

Director Lasse Hallström teams up again with Richard Gere to tell an affecting Americanized version that retains many of the Japanese notes about loyalty and love between man and canine.

Gere plays Parker Wilson, a music professor who stumbles upon the lost puppy while disembarking from a train at his quaint little town of Bedridge. Hachi was sent from a Japanese monastery, but his shipping tag was torn off. The befuddled station manager (Jason Alexander) refuses to accept the pup, saying he’d have to just take it to the pound.

So Parker takes the little guy home, despite the stern warning of his wife Cate (the always-wonderful Joan Allen) that they not keep him. They’ve apparently recently lost a dog she was close to, and as middle-aged empty nesters, Cate isn’t eager to see a four-legged interloper.

Soon enough, of course, Hachiko (the name comes from the number eight, which was written on his collar tag) becomes a full-fledged member of the family.

The primary relationships is between the dog and Parker, but Allen has a great scene with Hachi where you can see the reluctance just melt away from her face.

Hachi is a loving but willful companion — for instance, he refuses to play fetch, despite Parker’s many training attempts. He also ignores his master’s instruction not to follow him to the train station for work every day. He even shows up again promptly at 5 p.m. to wait for Parker to step off the train again.

I don’t think I’m giving anything away in saying that Parker dies about two-thirds of the way through the film — after all, it’s the dog’s behavior after his master’s death that made his story so unforgettable.

The film really amps up the pulling of heartstrings at this point, as the dog continues his increasingly grim journey to the train station every afternoon, eternally hopefully that his master — his friend — will greet him again.

Eventually, a reporter hears the remarkable dog’s tale, and the town rallies around its most famous denizen.

The breadth and depth of Hallström’s work (“Chocolat,” “My Life As a Dog,” “The Shipping News”) suggests he might represent Sweden’s finest cinematic export since the Bergmans — Ingrid and Ingmar. He and rookie screenwriter Stephen P. Lindsey manage to toe the correct side of the line between overt sentiment and mushy smarm.

“Hachi: A Dog’s Tale” is a great, big wet lick to the face, and a welcome one.

4 Yaps

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12 Responses to “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale”

  1. Ricco says:

    Thanks, Brian, for your accurate coordinates to the Train Depot. Woonsocket is not my town (we live in Phoenix, Arizona), but my wife is a manager at CVS/Caremark, which is based in Woonsocket. While she was attending meetings, I was looking for this station using my GPS, and reported the best I knew at the time, sorry. All of the tissues were used by the recipients of the DVD’s(!), and it is an underground hit with the 20 that got them, and they have passed them on to others as well. Cheers to all; thanks for enjoying this wonderful movie.

  2. Brian says:

    Hi, everybody! I was there for the filming of Hachi, each day it was being shot in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. I lived in Woonsocket for more than 30 years, and I would like to point out to Ricco, that the train depot is actually located at the intersection of Main Street, High Street, and Court Street. To be precise, it is on the corner of High and Main Streets. The backside of the depot is located on Railroad Street, but that is all. To give credit though, the train depot is the only thing that separates High Street and Railroad Street…. so you are accurate. However, the building’s address is on High Street… directly across the street from the book store in the movie. I was actually able to take some photos of the bookstore interior, as well as the train station- as it was during filming. It was quite an experience. I got to see how movies are made. It actually gave me some ideas. For those interested in knowing, Hachi was portraited by six dogs: three puppies, and three adult dogs. The main puppy that was used is named "Coby" (Or "Colby"), and two of the three adult dogs’ real names are Forrest and Layla. Forrest was the only adult dog credited for the making of Hachi.

  3. Dennis says:

    It’s available through Netflix. It is a great movie! To see the old dog at the end will break your heart. I cried in front of my seven year old daughter and am now crying again as I see it with my eleven year old daughter. A great story of undying loyalty.

  4. Ricco says:

    I was in Rhode Island last week (09/09/2011) – found the now defunct Train Depot used in this movie (corner of Railroad and Social streets in Woonsocket, RI). Took LOTS of pictures and video. This movie touched me deeply – to the point where I am giving a copy of the DVD (Amazon has them) AND a package of tissues (!) to about 20 friends this Christmas. This is a wonderful story of unconditional love and loyalty – rated G – kids can watch it as well.

  5. Kenneth says:

    It’s on HULU. Just saw it last week. Cried my eyes out.

  6. […] all All Comments (2,736) Sakura4258 37 minutes ago http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaS37E3gKOU Hachi: A Dog’s Tale | THE FILM YAP Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is an unapologetic tear-jerker, and one unlikely to leave a dry eye in […]

  7. Alicia says:

    I just saw this and It was incredible but it was heart wrenching. I cried my eyes out. It broke my heart into pieces. I will never forget the story of this dog. Ever !

  8. gmakadu says:

    Just saw this last night! OMG.. If you to see a remarkable movie, this would be it. Make sure to keep the kleenex handy. I just recently lost our family dog of 10 years, so this was even more emotional to watch.

  9. Jose Stumbier says:

    Its now Feb and i just saw the preview and now im seeing that the movie is hard to come by or see that just great cuase now i really wanna see it

  10. Subaruracer says:

    I heard that it was soppose to come out in theatres dec 18 and then later in januarry, is it going to be in the theatre or no? anyone kno?

  11. Joe Shearer says:

    According to DVDtown.com, Hachi will hit DVD on March 9.
    http://www.dvdtown.com/news/hachi-a-dogs-tale-comes-to-dvd-and-blu-ray-on-march-9/7232

  12. Catalina says:

    Does anybody know where o how one can watch this movie Hachiko a dog’s
    story/ tale with Richard Gere?
    I saw the trailer on a rental I made w/ Redbox but they tell me they won’t carry it
    or at least don’t have any info about it yet.
    thanks!