I was already crying buckets when I saw the trailer for “A Dog’s Way Home” a few weeks back so when I was invited to the special advance screening for the movie at the SM Cinema Aura Premiere, I knew I was destined to see this heartwarming film. Its a definite must see not only for dog lovers but animal lovers in general. Piece of advice, bring a hanky (I would suggest tissues but I’m trying to be more environment friendly).
Synopsis: It was love at first sight for stray pup Bella (voicedby Bryce Dallas Howard) and his person Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King). As she grew up in his house, she loved her human as much as he loved her. With Lucas and his mom (Ashley Judd), Bella had a happy family. But things get rocky when Bella is targetted by a local animal control officer in the pocket of a heartless property owner responsible for taking Bella’s family away. Left with no choice, Lucas is forced to take Bella to a safer place temporarily. But the separation gets to be too much for Bella and she escapes to travel 400 miles through the Colorado wilderness to be with her family.
DISCLAIMER: I may be a tad biased in my review of this movie because I love animals but I could safely say that even people who are not so fond of dogs, cats or other pets, could still relate to this movie. Its message is after all, about love and loyalty and Lucas and Bella’s story is basically one that is driven by these two universal emotions. Viewers can definitely find something to connect to in this film.
There have been movies told from a dog’s perspective before but “A Dog’s Way Home” manages to give a more realistic feel to Bella’s narrative because what she says completely matches her actions. Pet parents would understand this quite well because Bella behaves in the same way as regular dogs. When she’s curious, when she’s agitated, when she’s happy and when she’s scared. The film depicts the intelligence and the sensitivity of dogs and other animals quite perfectly and this is what makes Bella’s voice ring true for the entire movie.
I loved the development of Lucas and Bella’s relationship in the film. Bella, a pitbull, is not a typical dog to use in movies like these because the breed is often associated with violence. However, the film shines a whole new light on the capacity of this animal to be gentle and loyal to her human. I loved Lucas, and I really could not blame Bella for wanting to be with him all the time. He ticks all the boxes. He is handsome, smart and kind and his devotion to Bella was just absolute. He was even willing to move to another city just so he could keep his best friend and she could live her life happily. If I was Bella, I would travel hundreds of miles to get back to Lucas too. Their reunion was an absolute tearjereker. I doubt if there were any dry eyes in the theater after that slow motion run and Lucas’ joy in seeing his long lost friend.
Bella is the same way. She had plenty of opportunities to find a different family on her journey back to Lucas. As she said it, she could have been happy. But there could be no compromise when it comes to her family. Guided by her invisible compass, she endured a lot on her incredible adventure. That being said, kudos to the team for perfectly blending the CGI for big kitten with real life Bella. They were so cute together.
I also liked how the film shone the light on depression (particularly PTSD) as in the case of the war vets that were undergoing therapy at the center, and even those that were left unemployed and homeless without support after their tour of duty. Bella’s journey illustrated the importance of having someone — whether it be a person or an animal to show support in getting through the darkness that soldiers continously experience even after being exposed to the horror in different parts of the world. Some are lucky to have it while some succumb to the sadness and this was one of the heavier parts of the film for me.
All in all, “A Dog’s Way Home” succeeded in telling the story of a beautiful friendship and an incredible journey between a human and his dog. Truth be told, the trailer basically covers all the bases. Still, you have to watch the entire film to fully experience this beautiful, entertaining, touching and all around feel good tale. There have been plenty of dog movies made but this one will definitely be one that leaves a mark on your heart.
Check it out when it hits your local theaters January 30. I would definitely recommend it to children and adults alike.