Review: “Hatchi” opens Heartland Film Fest

It would have been so easy to wreck “Hatchi: A Dog’s Tale,” the tender and quietly remarkable film that opened this year’s Heartland Film Festival.

For starters, director Lasse Hallstrom (have to mention that he also directed the great “My Life as a Dog”), rookie screenwriter Stephen P. Lindsey and the rest of the creative team could have packed it with big, dramatic scenes—blow ups and emotional speeches—that would give high-profile leads Richard Gere and Joan Allen a way to show off in the film’s trailers.

They could have given its titular Akita more anthropomorphic qualities and wacky reaction shots. It could have rescued at least one kid from a burning orphanage.

They could have loaded the film down with back story, underlining an obvious hole in the life of Gere’s character that makes him attach himself to this dog so completely.

They could have had at least one cheap crotch laugh.

Instead, though, “Hatchi” has that rare thing in Hollywood films: Dignity.

And it doesn’t sacrifice entertainment to achieve that. It presents a relatively problem-free couple with interesting jobs, a nice house, and a lovely-but-low-key daughter. It brings a very dog-like dog into the mix. And it makes us care deeply about all parties involved. As I said, remarkable.

Here’s hoping it gets the release and finds the audience it deserves.

For more Heartland Film Festival movie reviews—including video trailers—click here.

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