Friday, August 19, 2011

Movie Review: A Dog Year

Lots of people write books about Border Collies.  Every breed has its enthusiasts, and Border Collies are, in fact, number one on Stanley Coren's Canine Intelligence list (while the Doberman, my breed of enthusiasm, is number 5.)   There are working line Border Collies, and show line, and they are flashy dogs.

This movie is about Border Collies, or is a movie of a book by Jon Katz about one specific Border Collie, Devon.  The movie is a bit different from the book (or books), involving only Devon, and briefly Katz's yellow labs, Julius, and Stanley.

The movie, as the book, was partly about how one can be very wrong about how to deal with a dog.  The movie also shows, rather adroitly, how you can slow down and still do it right, and the bond that can slowly form.  Having read the book, I was actually a bit surprised at how short the movie was.  It starred Jeff Bridges, otherwise known as The Dude (in my  mind, anyway), as Jon Katz, and his eventual dog trainer (or mentor or facilitator or whatever) was played by Lois Smith, who was Sookie's grandmother on True Blood. 

Devon is a pretty "broken" dog when Jon Katz gets him; high energy with nothing to do, intelligent and neurotic and a bit crazy.  He breaks stuff, gets into stuff, runs away, and otherwise makes a frustrating nuisance of himself in a particular way that dogs have.  Jon is apparently estranged from his wife, because he's a little broken and neurotic too, a writer who doesn't know what to write, and who withdraws from the world around him.  Really, it's when Lois the sheep lady (my name for her) calls him an angry son of a bitch that things begin to change.  Sometimes we don't know how angry we are until somebody identifies it to us, and sometimes we don't know how that affects those around us, dogs especially.  

It's when Jon blows off some of that anger in a different sort of task that he and Devon are able to make the necessary connection, and that is a fascinating sequence of scenes to watch.  It was a great movie to watch in general because the dog (or dogs) who play Devon is obviously either very well trained or just very smart, and very expressive.  

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